Cold Borscht with Chive Blossoms and Dill for Cook the Books Club

Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen, our current Cook the Books Club selection, is another CTB pick in the tradition of food as magic, such as The Last Chinese Chef and Like Water for Chocolate.  I am a sucker for a bit of the miraculous in life, and, this little gem of a novel certainly cast it's spell.  I went right out and read every one of her other books, after finishing it.  Got to love a book that mixes up a spellbinding plot with romance and good food.

Allen's story line about a magically gifted Southern family was unique enough to hold my interest, and her characters were well conceived, not at all predictable, but flawed, believable yet sympathetic human beings, who struggle with the emotional baggage we all carry, grow and come out changed for the better.  Even the apple tree had personality.

There was plenty to inspire our culinary interest as well.  My first thought was to do stuffed zucchini flowers, but the snails got all of the starts we put out.  I should cook them, the little devils.  But her mention of chive blossoms was a revelation.  I'd had no idea you could eat the flowers, or that they would be so delicious, carrying a more assertive jolt of the chive flavor.  I will never pass up that opportunity again.  Mine are garlic chives, sometimes called Chinese chives, and have white flowers, rather than the lavender blooms of standard chives.

I thought how lovely they would look floating on a bowl of chilled beet soup.  In the Russian/Estonian/etc. tradition with dill and cucumber, it would be perfect for our summer weather.  And, anyone with hurt feelings at dinner might be soothed.  Also the dill helps digestion and was thought to ward off any evil eyes lurking about, as per my Rodale's Encyclopedia of Herbs.

Cold Borscht with Garlic Chive Blossoms and Dill
Inspired by Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Makes 4 servings

    * 2 medium beets
    * 2 new potatoes
    * salt
    * juice of 1 lemon
    * sour cream, whole milk yogurt, or kefir can be stirred in or served on the side
    * 2 teaspoons  horseradish (or to taste)

    * 1 small cucumber, diced (if the seeds are large, remove them)
    * 1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, and or garlic chive blossoms, separated from the cluster
    * 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
    * slices of hard cooked egg are also traditional

Peel beets and potatoes and place, whole, into a medium saucepan. Fill with water just to cover the veg and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes (check beets and potatoes with a fork; you may need to extend the simmering time by a few minutes depending on the size of your veg). Remove the beets and potatoes and let cool for a few minutes, reserving the water.

Once the veggies are cool enough to handle, grate the beets coarsely, either by hand or in a food processor, and dice the potatoes. When the water has cooled to room temperature, put the beets and potatoes back into the broth and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight (the longer the flavors can marry, the better).

When ready to serve, add salt, horseradish and lemon juice to taste, and whatever you want from the garnishes.  Sour cream or thick yogurt are good to serve on the side, for everyone to help themselves.  This cold Borscht makes a beautiful first course for your summer feast, or a delightful lunch.  The flavoring is simple and the soup comes together easily.  Just do the vegetable boiling the day before, and you'll be set.


Swathi said...

I love borscht and as it has chive blossoms and dill is perfect.

Eliotseats said...

What a beautiful dish! I often add chive flowers to salads and my sister can't keep my nephew away from the chives when they start blooming. He will eat them straight from the garden! Great post.

Rachel said...

What gorgeous colors in your borscht. So glad you enjoyed the book and learned how to use garlic chive blossoms. Now, I do think you should go on an escargot hunt! Get that garlic butter ready.

Arlene Delloro said...

Such a gorgeous dish! Will be back to visit; Hawaii is in my top 3 favorite places in the world.

Danid said...

This looks like a beautiful dish! Thank you for the great welcome to CTB and I am so inspired by your dish! I believe I will be a frequent visitor to your blog!

Anonymous said...

Stunning presentation! I've used my chive flowers in salads and to flavor vinegar...great idea adding them to soup! I can think of a couple applications immediately! Thanks for sharing with us at CTB!

Alicia Foodycat said...

What an amazing colour! Perfect dish for hot weather, too.

Deb in Hawaii said...

Claudia, that is the most beautiful bowl of soup! I need to let my garlic chives blossom--so pretty. ;-) A wonderful job with this entry.

Simona Carini said...

This is really a pretty soup, Claudia. The color is so inviting! I have never seen garlic chives, so thank you for featuring them. They look pretty. I love my chive plant because so far it has been good without requiring too much care. And I love to look at the blossoms develop.

Joanne said...

Shockingly enough, my brother loves borscht so I am going to have to make this for him!