When I was a little girl, I visited my grandparents very often in Baranovichy, Belarus. Every spring they would plant a large garden. I would help them sort though the packets of seeds and then drop them into the warm, tilled soil. I was so excited to watch as the little green leaves would sprout throught the ground, loooking for sunshine.
During the summer, the bountiful garden would feed us many delicious meals. As soon as the beets were big enough to pull, we would make cold Beet Holodnik. Holodnik literally translates to “cold soup”. It is the perfect dish to enjoy on a hot summer day. Full of refreshing, garden vegetables, crunchy cucumbers, sweet beets, lemon juice and fresh herbs, this is one of the most authentic meals of my heritage. We always served a bowl of potatoes on the side. It is especially perfect with new potatoes, dug up from the same garden. Garnished with caramelized onions and bacon, this is one of my husband’s favorite summer meals. You can also garnish the potatoes with melted butter, minced garlic and fresh dill and chives.
Yields: 6-8 servings
6-7 cups water
1-2 beets (1 large or 2 medium beets), roasted
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
4 cucumbers, chopped
6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped, How to Hard-Boil Eggs Perfectly
fresh herbs, dill, chives, minced
sour cream, for garnishing
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets, cut off the tops, drizzle with a little bit of oil, season with salt and completely cover in aluminum foil. Roast for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the beets. The beets should be soft. I always check for doneness by piercing a wooden skewer through the beets. If the skewer peirces easily through the beets, they are done. Roasting beets intensifies their flavor and sweetness. It also leaves all the vitamins in the beets, unlike cooking them, since a lot of the nutrients will be lost in the water.
Roasted beets are also very easy to peel. When they are cool enough to handle, the skin easily rubs off using paper towels or your hands. You can also use a paring knife. Grate the beets on a box grater. Combine the beets in the water with lemon juice. Adding lemon juice not only adds a refreshing note to the soup, but will also keep the color of the beets a bring, vivid color. Bring to a boil. Season with salt. Cool down the soup, refrigerate until completely cold. You can make this ahead of time, or, if you’re in a hurry, fill the sink with ice and place the pot of soup right in the ice, which will hurry up the cooling.
To see how to hard boil eggs, click here. When ready to serve, chop the hard boiled eggs. Chop the cucumbers also. Seed the cucumbers by scooping out the seeds with a spoon, if the seeds are large. Add the eggs, cucumbers and fresh herbs to the soup. We Russians always garnish this soup with sour cream. You can add a spoonful of sour cream to each bowl or add the sour cream to the whole soup. Serve with a bowl of boiled new potatoes.