RECIPE: 5-minute cold borscht starts with smart shopping

No-Cook, 5-Minute Borscht. Henri Hollis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
No-Cook, 5-Minute Borscht. Henri Hollis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

There was a time when I would scoff at those little packages of precooked beets next to the boxed salad greens at the grocery store. Why pay a premium for extra plastic when it’s easy to cook raw beets yourself? Roasting or boiling beets isn’t difficult, but it is time-consuming, and makes preparing a dish such as a summery chilled borscht more of a weekend project than a speedy weeknight meal.

Chilled borscht is a variant of the sour Ukrainian vegetable stew, often made with a mixture of root vegetables and beef. The chilled version is sour, but more consistently made almost entirely from beets (a garnish of potatoes and/or cucumbers would not be out of place). It’s also easy to make vegetarian and to simplify so that it fits within 5:30 Challenge parameters.

The time restraint is not an issue. Thanks to precooked beet packages, you don’t have to do much more than blend all of the ingredients together before serving, which means dinner will take just 5 minutes to make.

The five-ingredient restriction does, however, mean that extra vegetable garnishes are a no-go, but this soup is plenty good without them. All you need, besides the beets, are the critical ingredients: chilled vegetable broth, lemon juice, sour cream and fresh dill. You’ll also need a bit of salt, if you purchase low- or no-sodium broth, as well as olive oil for enriching the soup.

The only trick for a properly smooth borscht? The blending order. First, blitz together the beets, broth and lemon juice in a blender until they turn creamy. Depending on the power of your blender, this step could take upwards of a minute; when in doubt, blend a bit longer. Next, with the blender still running, gradually pour in the olive oil. It’ll emulsify with the vegetables, leaving the soup silky and thick. Last, plate and serve. I prefer to offer sour cream and dill at the table so that each person can make their bowl of borscht as rich or light they’d like.

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No-Cook, 5-Minute Borscht. Henri Hollis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
No-Cook, 5-Minute Borscht. Henri Hollis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

No-Cook, 5-Minute Borscht
  • 2 (8.8-ounce) packages ready-to-eat cooked beets, chilled
  • 3 cups vegetable broth, chilled
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt (if using low- or no-sodium broth)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sour cream, chilled, for serving
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, for serving
  • On the side: Bread and butter or cheese
  • Combine the beets, broth and lemon juice in a blender. Blend until very smooth, 30 seconds to 1 minute. With the blender running, slowly pour in the oil to emulsify it into the soup. This step should take about 30 seconds. Taste the soup and season with salt and additional lemon juice, if desired. Serve topped with a generous dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of dill, with bread and butter on the side. Serves: 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving (using 1/4 cup sour cream): 229 calories (percent of calories from fat, 64), 6 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 17 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 7 milligrams cholesterol, 441 milligrams sodium.
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