It has been unbelievably hot since May. Temperatures often exceed 100F. On such days there is nothing more desirable than a cold soup.
Almost each hot climate cuisine has its own cold soup for hot days. The most famous come from the countries where summer dominates any other season. We all know Spanish Gazpacho, Greek lemon chicken soup, French Vichyssoise. But not everyone would believe that there are also cold soups in a traditional Polish cookbook, although summers in Poland can often be rainy and cold.
We have our own list of cold sweet soups made from our summer fruits starting with strawberries and cherries to apples. But my favorite has always been the cold beet soup although it is more labor intensive and not sweet at all. In Polish it is called "Chlodnik" which could be translated as something like a chiller or a cooler, and it is based on beetroots, but should not be confused with another famous soup called Barszcz, which is served hot and mainly during during winter months.
Everything in this soup is about summer. All the ingredients are fresh, crispy and aromatic.
During my deck dinner parties I have served cautiously this soup to the most culinary cosmopolitan guests about three times already and, to my happy surprise, whenever the summer heat comes back to DC, my friends ask for my Chlodnik again.
The recipe is simple, but it involves a lot of chopping and two special ingredients--young beets and cucumbers is brine. Exactly for that reason I wrote about cucumbers in brine in one of my previous posts.
Beets have become very popular and many cooks experiment with them, so now they are also widely available. You just need to cut them-from roots up to leaves, into small pieces and cook. This can be messy, but some shortcuts can be made to skip these steps, which I admit I did sometimes myself.
Instead of making your own cucumbers in brine you can use Kosher Dill Pickles, which you can buy at most food stores. You can also replace the fresh beets with the canned ones.
Cold Beet Soup
1 bunch fresh beets,or 2 cans,
1 English cucumber,
4-6 small kirby cucumbers in brine,
1 bunch of radish,
1 bunch of dill,
1 bunch of spring onion,
32 oz European, or Greek yogurt,
1. If using raw beets wash them and cut off above the roots.
2. Cut the stalks up to the leaves in small pieces,about 1/4 of inch.
3. Cut beet roots in slices, then in pillars and finally into small cubes.
4. Cook all chopped parts in 4 cups of salted water. If you use canned sliced beets just cut them into small cubes (please see the photos), saving all the juice.
5. Similarly, cut radish, salted cucumbers, and fresh ones in small cubes.
6. Chop dill and spring onion.
7. In a large pot combine all the vegetables and cooked or canned beets and mix gently.
8. Add yogurt and mix again, seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
9. Chill the soup for minimum 2 hours, but leave preferably over night in the refrigerator.
10. Serve cold with a dollop of fresh or sour cream.
We serve this soup with cooked young potatoes garnished with fried onion and bacon, or simply alone. Some people also put a hard-boild egg in Chlodnik.