Lithuanian Borscht (Friendship and the love of soup.)

As you have read in my previous post, and those who know me; you already know that I come from one big and loving family. Aunts, uncles, cousins, distant cousins, in-laws and honorary relatives; we love each other unconditionally. Growing up this way I never felt the need to have a lot a friends, I knew I always had family to rely on and always be there for me. Do not get me wrong, I do have friends but I have learned something about myself over time. The friends that I have I hold near and dear to my heart and treat like family. I guess that is the result of having a large family that is such a part of me. Over the course of life: growing up, high school, college, moving on, more schooling, marriage, and travel I have been gifted with a beautiful friendship.  My dear and true friend Wayne has been a part of my life through thick and thin. (I know when he reads this he will probably be embarrassed by what I have to say, but it is all true.) I love him like family and no matter how much time passes, how far away we live from one another we can always pick up the phone or send an email like there has been no time lapse. We pick up where we left off; just like that we are catching up and filling each other with the details of our lives. We have been there for each other through good times and bad, physically and spiritually.  I just love that we have this connection as though time may not exist and I value it more than all the cookbooks in the world.

Not too long ago I was looking though some recipes and came upon one for a Lithuanian Borscht that I found intriguing. It is a soup made with beets as its base and served chilled with a hot boiled potato on the side; of course I had to give this recipe a try. As I started to make it I thought of Wayne, his wife is from Lithuania; and of course I called him to see if they knew of the soup.  To my surprise they were stunned to hear that I was making it. Apparently it is an extremely common dish served throughout Lithuania and they both love it. Since then every time either of us makes it or eats it we text each other pictures of our soup. Low and behold I was making the soup all wrong.

Wayne would comment that my soup was not “pink” enough. I was told you would never add chives like I once did.  Another time I served it with a baked potato…I think I could hear the eye rolling through the phone. What was I to know about this soup? I was raised in an “Italian American” family and I studied French cuisine in school; this Lithuanian soup was so foreign to me. I had to get it right; I had to learn the traditional way of making it. So through a series of emails & photos Wayne and his wife Ovidija sent me step by step instructions, measurements, and suggestions. When my lesson on the traditional Lithuanian Borscht was done my eyes were opened and so were my taste buds.  It was so light, delicious, bright in flavor, and perfect for the hot weather of the summer.  The contrast of the chilled soup and the hot potato is like nothing else. It is perfection. Brian and I slurped our way through all that the recipe made and we enjoyed each and every last bit of it.

I do not know many that would go through the trouble of step by step instructions on a family recipe like Wayne and Ovidija did for me. (Wayne explained that his recipe is just the way that Ovidija’s grandmother taught it to her.) This recipe and friendship makes me thankful for so many things. I hope that someday we can sit at the same table and share it together and not through a phone, emails and pictures. This is just another connection we have now in life, chilled soup.

Lithuanian Borscht

Ovidija’s Chilled Lithuanian Borscht (serves 4)

1 ½ - 2 # of beet roots (boiled, chilled, and grated), about 2 cups

2 cups of grated cucumber (peeled before grating)

1 cup of scallions, chopped small

¼ - 1/3 cup of finely chopped fresh dill

½ - 1 tsp of salt, to taste

2 pts. of Kefir

A couple of boiled potatoes (1 – 2 per serving), served hot

Hardboiled egg, optionally served along the side of soup (1/2 per serving)

First, boil the beets with their skin on. It is neater this way. When tender plunge hem into a bowl of ice water and remove the skins. With a food processor or a grater, grate the beets and place in a large bowl. Chill until the beets are cold.

Next; add the grated cucumber, scallion, and dill to the bowl. Stir in the Kefir and salt and admire the color that transforms before you. If you feel it is too thick you can add a bit of water (a smidgen at a time) until you reach a desired constancy.

Finally, to serve, ladle the chilled soup into a bowl and serve with a boiled potato on the side. If you wish you can also serve with a half of a boiled egg to go with each serving. Garnish with some extra dill if you like and serve.

*Note: I like to add a squeeze of lemon to my serving. Not in the traditional recipe, but my own little touch.