This is essentially classic cold beet borscht, with a few modern tweaks. I love its almost obscenely gorgeous color, and it's even fairly healthy. Its basic DNA comes from my grandmother, updated with a little balsamic vinegar, and buttermilk is mixed in instead of the traditional sour cream, for a relatively light creamy tang. Sauteed onions and carrots also add a layer of flavor. I'm sure my grandmother never heard of balsamic vinegar, but my father, her son, loved this version too. —amysarah
Large Spanish onion (or a large yellow onion & 3-4 shallots,) chopped small
Medium/large carrots, chopped small
Light brown sugar
14-15 oz. cans of whole peeled beets
Roasted fresh beets*
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Sour cream or creme fraiche and fresh chopped chives for topping
Roast the beets: wash, trim and roast them whole in a foil packet at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until very tender. When cool enough to handle, slip off skins and slice.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion and carrots. Cook covered for around 15 minutes, stirring a few times, until fairly soft but not browned. Stir in the balsamic and continue cooking for about 5 more minutes, or until very soft. Stir in the brown sugar, adjusting quantity depending on sweetness of beets/carrots. (It should have a slight sweetness, but not taste like dessert.) Let cool slightly.
In a blender, puree the cooked vegetables with the canned beets and their liquid. It will probably take 3 or 4 batches, removing the puree to a big bowl as you go. (An immersion blender works fine for this, but I like the smoother puree you get in a blender.)
Whisk it all together with around ¾-1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper, then the buttermilk. If it seems too thick, add a little more buttermilk. Add more salt if necessary (flavors mute a bit when cold, so don’t under season.)
Chill in the fridge for a few hours; stir well and serve topped with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche, and a sprinkling of chopped chives.
*Note: roasted beets add depth of flavor, but for a quicker version - or when fresh aren't available - omit them and use 3 cans instead. It will still be delicious.