Warszawa is a wonderfully homey little restaurant that has been quietly serving amazingly sophisticated Polish food in Santa Monica for more than three decades. It may be most famous for its roast duck and pirogi (and its terrific collection of Polish vodkas), but this borscht is simply unbelievable. The layering of flavors — sweet beets, fresh dill, green onions, tangy buttermilk — makes it one of the best any of us has ever tasted.
Warszawa's cold borscht
Total time: About 1 hour, plus cooling time for the beets
Note: Adapted from Warszawa in Santa Monica
1/2 pound red beets, tops and roots trimmed but unpeeled
2 cups buttermilk or yogurt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, about half a lemon
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions, green part only
1 large cucumber, peeled, not seeded, and diced into small pieces
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and sliced crosswise or diced
1. Cook the beets in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover them by 1 inch. Simmer the beets until they are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat, drain the beets and set them aside until cool enough to handle.
2. Peel and grate the beets, saving any liquid produced when grating. You should have at least 1 cup of beets (any extra can be used as a garnish for salads and will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 week).
3. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup grated beets and reserved liquid, buttermilk, sour cream, sugar, lemon juice and salt using a large spatula.
3. One hour before serving, gently stir in the green onions, cucumber, dill and parsley. Cover and refrigerate to allow the flavors to marry. This makes a scant 5 cups of soup.
4. Serve each bowl with a sprinkling of dill and slices of hard-boiled egg.
Each of 4 servings: 179 calories; 6 grams protein; 21 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 8 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 24 mg cholesterol; 18 grams sugar; 1,361 mg sodium.