Cook the Book: Elaine's Clear Vegetarian Borscht

Cook the Book: Elaine's Clear Vegetarian Borscht

Book Cover

In the introduction to one of the chapters in this week's Cook the Book selection, The Food Life, author Steven Jenkins states: "a salad without beets is just not a proper salad." I couldn't agree more. Sweet, earthy, brilliantly colored beets are one of my most favorite vegetables. I would eat them every day if cooking them wasn't such a laborious, messy operation. Fortunately, taking a cue from French produce markets, Fairway stocks imported cooked, peeled, vacuum-packed beets that are "cheap as dirt" and perfect for tossing with mixed greens and mustard vinaigrette.

Much to Steve's chagrin, Today's Cook the Book recipe for Elaine's Clear Vegetarian Borscht (Elaine is the mother of Mitchel London, Fairway's recipe developer) must be made from raw beets because their cooking liquid is essential to the finished soup. But the end result is incredibly healthy, light, flavorful, and well worth the effort.

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  • Yield:6


  • 2 bunches (about 2 1/2 pounds) red beets with healthy beet greens, washed well, beets thinly sliced and greens reserved
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt, or to taste
  • Sour cream, for serving


  1. 1.

    Place the sliced beets and their greens in a large stainless steel stockpot or another nonreactive stockpot and add the onion. Pour in water to cover the beets and onion by just about 1 inch (about 12 cups). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the beets are tender, 30 to 35 minutes.

  2. 2.

    Strain the broth into a glass container or another nonporous (and, therefore, nonstaining) container, discarding all the solids. While the soup is still hot, stir in the lemon juice, sugar, and salt; adjust the seasonings to your taste. Cover the borscht with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

  3. 3.

    To serve, ladle the soup into chilled bowls and drop a big dollop of sour cream into each serving. Or, if you want to be dramatic, serve it in glasses, also topped with sour cream.