Friday, July 3, 2009

Chilled Beet Soup

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."

Growing up my father worked on a steam locomotive, helping his father, the engineer. He often traveled with his father, and on February 13th, 1945 they pulled into Dresden Germany. His father was killed in the first night's bombing, and if not for a passing soldier, my father would have died, burned, at 14.

His home country, Lithuania, first overrun by the Nazis and now occupied by Stalin, held nothing for him. So he made his way to a refugee camp where he finagled a job as a food server. He knew that being close to the food meant you would eat.

Every day a 7-year old orphan came through the line and, for whatever reason, my father gave him an extra scoop of food. The orphan said, "Thank you, I'll remember this". One day the orphan didn't show up for dinner and my father went to find out what was going on. He learned that the boy had left for America, he'd been "sponsored", bought for adoption really, by a widowed English teacher from Framingham Massachusetts.

A year passed and my father was approaching his 16th birthday. At the time, 16 year old males were offered automatic Australian citizenship if they agreed to immediately join the military. My father wanted out of the refugee camp and he wanted to be a citizen somewhere. He had the forms ready when he was called to the Red Cross tent.

"Would you like to go to America?"

My father, recognizing Fate tapping him on the shoulder, said "Yes!"

The ocean crossing was rough, but he made it with the clothes on his back and nothing more. The ship docked in Boston on his 16th birthday. Disembarking, he saw a small crowd at the end of the gangway, a few people, a reporter, a photographer, and in the middle of the group, a now 9-year old boy.

"See, I told you I'd remember."

True story.

It's Fourth of July and the Statue of Liberty is back in business. America is a country of immigrants and visitors. I can't think of a better time to post a recipe from the "old country". This is Boonsta's version of chilled beet soup. Now I know this recipe is going to be controversial. This is NOT borscht! This is a cool, refreshing, slightly tart summer soup, perfect for a hot night. Enjoy...

Chilled Beet Soup
by Boonsta
serves about 6

1 pound beets
1 cup half & half
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 TBSP fresh dill, chopped
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 pickling cucumber, thinly sliced
salt & pepper to taste

2 sliced hard boiled eggs for serving

Wash the unpeeled beets to remove any dirt. Place the beets in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender (a sharp knife should easily pierce the flesh), depending on the size of the beets, this could take 20 to 40 minutes.

Drain, allow to cool slightly, then peel. The tough outer skin should slide off easily.

When the beets are cold, grate them on a box grater or in your food processor. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the half & half, buttermilk, water and sour cream. Mix well to combine.

Stir in the beets, sliced cucumber, dill and diced onion. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

When cold, ladle into serving bowls and garnish with slices of hard boiled egg.

Peasant food, simple and flavorful. For a smoother texture, add the beets and onion to the liquid and use a stick blender to puree the soup. Then add the cukes, dill and eggs.

OK crablings, I'm off to sit in a lounge chair and watch some fireworks. Until next time, remember, you can do it you can cook.


Anonymous said...

Awesome story, well-told. Thanks for reminding us of the magic of "America."

Anonymous said...

I tried to relate this story to my husband today, but I was so choked up, I could hardly get the words out.
What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it with the world.
P.S. The soup looks great too! We'll have to try it. :)

WineWizardBob said...

Borscht in another format.

Ice cold shots of Russian Standard Vodka. One course grind of pepper on the vodka will further enhance this pairing.

Wine and soup rarely match well.