Photograph by Keirnan Monaghan Food Styling by Maggie Ruggiero Prop Styling by Theo Vamvounakis

Chilled Summer Borscht

Starters from Issue 7 – Summer 2015 – Spectrum

Beets are, as vegetables go, pretty transformative. On an episode of MTV’s House of Style (essential viewing in the ‘90s) designer Todd Oldham showed viewers how to convert a plain button-down into a printed wonder with just beets, salt, and a Sharpie. Eat an ample amount of beets and they will, well, make their presence known again later. And, as for borscht, it would cease to exist without beets. Our version, light in heft but not in flavor, adds shards of fennel into the mix and tops it all off with a dollop of crème fraîche.

serves 6

  • 6 small (not baby) beets, well-scrubbed
  • 1 small bulb fennel with tops
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 2 to 3 tsp red wine vinegar
  • crème fraîche, to serve
  • chopped chives, to serve

  • 1

    Place the beets in a large pot with 10 cups of water. Cut the tops from the fennel and add to the pot. Simmer until the beets are tender, about 30-35 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beets to a plate and discard fennel tops. When cool enough to handle, peel beets. Cut in half and slice into thin slivers. Quarter the fennel, cut out the core, and slice into spoon-sized slivers.

  • 2

    Pour 6 cups of the beet cooking liquid into a large bowl making sure to leave any grit from the pot behind. Stir in the salt and sugar until dissolved. Add the beets and fennel slivers. Cover with plastic wrap and chill several hours or overnight. Before serving, stir in vinegar to taste and check seasoning. Serve with a generous dollop of crème fraîche and a sprinkling of chopped chives.