Whether served hot or cold, brimming with meat or completely vegetarian, the beet soup known as borscht has become a staple of the Ashkenazi Jewish repertoire. Perhaps that is because, amidst a sea of brown, heavy dishes— potato kugel, challah, cholent, latkes, and so on—borscht’s ruby color and tangy-sweet flavor offers a bright counterpoint. I love to make borscht, but I do not fancy the cold version that is popular during the warm summer months. Instead, I transfer all the soup’s building blocks—roasted beets and carrots, pickled onions, fresh dill and garlic, and crème fraîche (aka fancy sour cream)—from the soup bowl to a piece of crunchy toast. The resulting crostini are visually stunning (red beets! springy chopped herbs!) and versatile enough to serve as party fare or be the center of a snack or meal. Each component can be prepped in advance and assembled just before serving.
3 medium beets, peeled, halved, and cut into
1/2-in [12-mm] chunks
4 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 2-in [5-cm] lengths
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup [60 ml] fresh lime juice
2 tbsp sugar
1 small red onion, quartered through the root and sliced as thinly as possible
3/4 cup [35 g] chopped fresh dill
zest of 1 lemon
1 large garlic clove, coarsely chopped
12 small, 1/2-inch- [12-mm-] thick slices of sourdough or rye bread
One 8-oz [225-g] container crème fraîche or sour cream
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F [230°C] and line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Put the beets, carrots, 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and a generous amount of pepper on the baking sheet and stir to coat. Bake, tossing once with tongs, until the vegetables are tender, 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to the touch.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 Tbsp of red wine vinegar, the lime juice, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Add the onion slices and toss to coat. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once or twice, to soften and lightly pickle the onion. (Or cover and let sit in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.)
3. Place the dill, lemon zest, and garlic in a single mound on a cutting board and chop until the garlic is minced and the ingredients are well combined.
4. Turn the oven to 400°F [200°C]. Brush one side of the bread slices with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and arrange on two large baking sheets. Bake until crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
5. To assemble the crostini: Spread each bread slice with about 1 Tbsp of crème fraîche and top with a few pieces of beet and carrot and some pickled onion slices. Sprinkle with the dill mixture and more black pepper. Serve immediately.
From Little Book of Jewish Appetizers by Leah Koenig, photographs by Linda Pugliese (Chronicle Books, 2017).