6 cups water
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
8 medium beets, all but the last inch of stem removed
1 small onion, halved
¼ cup sugar
3 small potatoes, peeled
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
Chopped fresh dill leaves
½ cup sour cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring the water, vinegar, beets, onion, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until a skewer glides easily through the beets, about 45 minutes. Transfer the beets and onion to a bowl. Pour the liquid through a strainer lined with paper towel (to remove any grit). Reserve the cooking liquid.
With paper towels, rub the skins and stems off the beets and cut them into large chunks. Puree the beets, onion and 3 cups cooking liquid (or more if you like) in batches in the blender until it’s a thick and smooth soup. Chill at least three hours.
Place the potatoes in a small saucepan, cover with salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until a skewer glides easily through the potatoes, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and transfer the potatoes to a bowl of ice water. Cut into ½-inch dice. Place the potatoes, cucumber and dill in separate bowls to take to the table.
Whisk the sour cream into the soup; add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with the garnishes.
Serves 4 to 6.
From “Chicago Tribune Magazine,” July 11, 2004, by Leah Eskin, adapted from “A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen” by Jack Bishop (Houghton Mifflin).