I have trouble with seasonal cooking. I like hot soups year-round. I will rarely turn down a good stew. I'm uninspired by salads until August, when I can pluck tomatoes and cucumbers right from my mom's backyard garden. I may have qualms about using the oven when it's 80+ degrees in my non-air conditioned apartment, but a nice poppy seed roll chases away my regrets.
Svekolnik, also known as cold borsch, is one of my consessions to warm weather. It's nothing like hot borsch, which is a meal in a bowl. Rather, svekolnik is a light, low-calorie soup that tastes bests when the weather is hot, hot, hot. It could almost pass for hip, vegan raw food. I'm cheating a bit here because my mom made the soup above. But I liked eating it and will make a svekolnik of my own one of these days.
I don't have the exact recipe, but the basic technique is this: In a soup pot, bring beets and water to a boil, then simmer until the beets are tender. Remove and cool the beets, then peel and grate, adding them back to the liquid.
[Update, August 08: The recipe is this: thoroughly wash and scrub a pound of beets. Cover the beets with six cups of water; bring to a boil; then simmer for 60-90 minutes until soft. Proceed as written.]
Add lemon juice, red wine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to the beet liquid to taste. This is the hardest part--underseason, and the soup will be bland. It should taste sweet-and-sour, erring on the side of sour. My mom's secret ingredient is a good splash of dill pickle brine. Chill the soup throughly in the fridge, preferably overnight.
Right before serving, chop up: hardboiled eggs, boiled and peeled potatoes, fresh peeled cucumbers, scallions, dill and parsley. I also like pickles in svekolnik. Divide the fix-ins between bowls, ladle the soup over the top and serve with sour cream.