This is the meat-less version of the famous Russian and Eastern European hearty, winter beet soup, which David Tanis brilliantly changed, creating a refreshing summer treat.
I slightly adapted Tanis’ recipe, basically omitting the celery, because Costas is not fond of it. Kale is not available here, but the beets come with their greens which I used; you can alternatively add chard, kale, or any other green you like.
I simply top the wonderful soup with thick strained yogurt instead of the cream and freshly grated horseradish, which would be fantastic, if only we could get it on Kea!
In his introduction to the recipe, David Tanis talks about “…the long-gone resorts of the Catskills, in the so-called Jewish Alps. During their heyday, in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, these summer resorts hosted generations of Jewish Americans, at a time when virulent anti-Semitism prevented their admittance to non-Jewish resorts. Families would spend the whole summer in these mountains enclaves to escape the sweltering city. There were daily activities and nightly entertainment. Comedians who worked the circuit called it the Borscht Belt. And quite a lot of cold borscht was served in that era before air-conditioning.”
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large leek, diced (about 1 cup)
Salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
½ pound starchy potatoes (about 6 potatoes), peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
2 pounds medium beets, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
½ pound medium carrots (about 4 carrots), peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
3 cups coarsely chopped beet greens, chard leaves or kale
1 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaved parsley
1 tablespoon apple-cider vinegar, or to taste
1/2 -1 teaspoons freshly ground pepper, to taste
Thick, full-fat yogurt (Greek) for serving
A handful of cilantro leaved, coarsely chopped (optional)
Put olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat and add the onion, and leek, stir to coat, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until the onion has softened. Add the garlic, tomato paste, paprika, caraway, bay leaf and thyme, and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
Add the potatoes, the beets and the carrots, 6 cups water and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a brisk simmer. Simmer with lid ajar for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes, beets, and carrots are fork tender.
Add the greens, most of the parsley –keeping some for topping the soup– and vinegar and stir to distribute. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning, adding freshly ground pepper. Simmer briefly until the greens are done.
To serve, ladle into soup bowls, and garnish with parsley, and cilantro, if you like. Pass the thick yogurt at the table.