Chilled, Grilled Beet Borscht

— by Ronit Treatman

“It’s almost too hot to eat anything at all!” I exclaimed to my friend, Anna Gombai. It was a humid day in Philadelphia, with temperatures in the nineties. “You need something light and healthy,” she told me. “Cold Russian borscht, like we used to make in Moscow.” I had never tasted borscht, but I was game to try. Borscht is a Russian peasant beet soup that is traditionally served chilled. It is garnished with chopped eggs, radishes and herbs. To me, the most important requirement was to cook it outside, on the grill, so the house would remain cool.

Full recipe after the jump.
Grilled Beet Borscht adapted from Anna Gombai

  • 2 pounds multicolored beets
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound cucumbers
  • 1 bottle plain, non-fat Kefir
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup radishes, diced
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 1/4 cup minced dill
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Preheat the grill to medium.
  2. Wash the beets, and brush them with olive oil.
  3. Place on the grill for 10-15 minutes, until cooked through.
  4. Remove the beets from the grill and allow to cool.
  5. Once the beets are cool, chop them up.
  6. Mix the beets in a large bowl with Kefir, salt, and pepper.  
  7. Cover the bowl, and chill for about 4 hours.
  8. To serve, garnish with chopped eggs, cucumbers, radishes, scallions, dill, cilantro, and a dollop of sour cream.

The soup was a vivid pink, with green accents from the herbs. The Kefir, which is a type of yogurt, gave it a silky texture, while the chopped cucumbers and radishes added a welcome crunch. Kefir is high in protein and calcium, and very low in lactose. It is also full of bacteria that boost the immune system and help digestion.

I asked Anna if I should serve it with bread. She recommended a traditional Russian side dish: a boiled potato. I cooked my potato on the grill, covered with aluminum foil.

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