Cold Chlodnik soup is startlingly refreshing
Kim Bayer | AnnArbor.com Contributor
Strong heat during the dog days of summer requires strong refreshment. You might crack open the fridge and stand in front of it, or crack open a beer. But I suggest cracking your eyeball and your tastebuds on the startling refreshment of Chlodnik — a cold (and hot pink) Polish variation of Borscht that includes yogurt, sour cream, or — in the version I make — buttermilk. This soup requires little cooking (only the beets are cooked) and just a bit of chopping.
Another thing I like about Chlodnik is that all the ingredients are in season right now, and most of them come in our CSA farm share box, including beets, dill, cucumber, radish, garlic scapes and green onion. Add some creamy fermented dairy, and you've got lunch or a light dinner.
Many recipes I've seen include cooked beet tops with the roots, but so far I haven't made it this way. Pickle juice, pickled beet juice, or a "salt cucumber" are other things I've seen in recipes but haven't tried. You can sexy up the final presentation with garnishes like hard cooked eggs or chives, and there are also versions with shrimp, crayfish or even veal. I suggest a piece of toasted rye bread on the side, or a big soft pretzel.
3-4 medium size beets, cooked and peeled, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch dice
5-8 radishes (the sweet pink ones are really nice), cut in half and thinly sliced
1-2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoon dill, chopped fine
1 garlic scape, chopped fine
3 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Stir ingredients together. Taste for seasoning. Serve on the patio in coffee mugs. Shot of ice cold vodka is optional.
NOTE: The Tasting Poland website says:
"Chlodnik is a soup known both in Polish and Lithuanian cuisine. Actually, this Polish-Lithuanian soup is yet another kind of red borscht. Red beet juice is a basic ingredient of chlodnik, and that is why the soup has a beautiful pink color...This soup has a delicate sour-sweet taste. Sweetness originates from natural sugar content in beetroots, whereas addition of some sour milk, kefir or yoghurt brings a sour flavor about. Besides the beetroot, sour cucumbers and young beet leaves are common ingredients of a chlodnik soup. The fact that this Polish soup is dished up cold is an unique feature. Actually, a name of a soup derives from a word "chlod" that means coolness. As such, chlodnik is usually prepared and served during hot summers."
Kim Bayer is a freelance writer and culinary researcher. Email her at kimbayer at gmail dot com.