Borscht is one of those things that you only ever see cartoon characters on TV eat. Or rather, try not to eat. Like Brussels Sprouts, we perceived it as a gross food punishment doled out by sinister, heavily-accented grandmas from The Olde World™. I thought the same until I visited Bar Tartine, in San Francisco, and tried their incredible magenta soup. This is borscht? It tasted like liquefied Jewish rye, only earthier and herbier. Inspired by their recipe, I made this much less labor-intensive version that is packed with the great digestive benefits of sauerkraut, but also crazy amounts of folate, potassium, iron, and vitamin C from the beets. Cartoon grandma would approve.
For the soup:
2 lb red beets, trimmed, cooked, and peeled
5 cups broth, divided
1 sweet white onion, diced
1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced to ¼”
2 tsp salt, divided
1 bay leaf
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, stemmed and minced
1 ½ Tbsp honey
½ tsp caraway seeds
½ tsp dill seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 cups sauerkraut with brine
2 tbsp olive oil
For the gremolata:
Zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp dill, chopped
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground coriander
Yogurt or creme fraiche to garnish
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the broth, onion, potato, bay leaf, and 1 tsp salt and bring to a simmer. Cook until the potato is tender, about 10 minutes.
While the potato and onions are cooking, square off the peeled beets with a knife. It’s ok to have rounded edges. Cut them into ¼” pieces until you have 2 cups diced. Reserve the scraps in a blender for later.
Once the potatoes are tender, add the diced beets, garlic, chile, honey, and pepper. Turn heat to a low simmer.
In a blender, combine the reserved beet scraps, remaining 3 cups of broth, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, dill seeds, and olive oil. Blend on high until completely liquefied. Add to the pot of vegetables and warm slightly.
Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. While the soup is cooling, combine the ingredients for the gremolata in a small bowl and combine well.
Once the soup is cooler, stir in the sauerkraut and brine. Serve immediately with yogurt or creme fraiche and the gremolata.
Note: This soup is traditionally enjoyed cold. Even more of a reason to skip the reheating and keep the awesome probiotics of the sauerkraut intact.