This dish was inspired by okroshka, a tart, refreshing Russian summer soup—think of it as gazpacho’s distant, alluring Slavic cousin. If you’re lucky enough to live near a Russian bodega (or even if, like me, you need to take the G train to the end of the line), head straight there for delectable imported кефир (kefir) and сметана (sour cream), as well as house-made pickles straight from the barrel. That’s the gussied-up version to serve at a dinner party, along with a loaf of dark, aromatic Borodinsky bread and hot-smoked salmon. But for a regular summer weeknight when the Mercury is approaching 90˚F and you’re trying to conserve energy, just pop out to your local bodega and pick up any brand of sour cream (as long as it’s full-fat!). For your half-sours—or, as the Russians call them, your “lightly salteds”—you want a pickle with plenty of snap, like Ba-Tampte. (And if at all possible, pick up your hard-boiled eggs at the bodega too. Because it’s just fun to do that.)" —mitschlag
32 oz. jar half-sour pickles (preferably Ba-Tampte), plus 1 jar left-over pickle brine
Strain two jars’ worth of pickle brine over a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. You should have about a quart of brine.
Shake the kefir well and add it to the brine. Whisk in the sour cream.
Coarsely chop pickles (you should end up with about 3 cups). Add to brine.
Time for a taste check! The base should be tart and refreshing, with a demure hint of silkiness from the sour cream. If it’s too tart for your liking, whisk in more sour cream to taste.
Coarsely chop 1 cup each of dill, chives, and radishes, and add to soup.
Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle 1 chopped hard-boiled egg on top of each bowl, along with a good crack of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. (You won’t need salt.)
Once you’ve tasted the more-or-less classic version, go ahead and riff. If your bodega sells cooked beets, grate a few into the soup. Add a handful of other herbs (mint is particularly nice), or chopped seedless grapes, or a few ribbons of your favorite deli ham.