Paper or Plastik Cafe's borscht

Time 2 hours
Yields Serves 6 to 8
Paper or Plastik Cafe’s borscht
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Quick-pickled beets


Place the beets in cold water and bring to a boil. Salt the water with 1 tablespoon salt, and cook the beets until they are tender and sweet, about 25 minutes. Drain and cool the beets under cold running water, then peel and cut into large dice.


Combine the vinegar with the water, sugar, allspice and clove, and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Remove from heat, cover and cool to room temperature.


Combine the cooked beets with the pickling liquid, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The beets will keep, refrigerated, for two weeks.



In a 12-quart pot, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over low heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat is rendered out, 10 to 12 minutes.


Add the carrots, celery and onion to the bacon. Season lightly with one-fourth teaspoon salt, stir, and add the water to the pot and cover. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.


Stir the garlic into the vegetables and cook for a minute to marry the flavors, then add the beef broth and sachet. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue cooking for 30 minutes. Remove the sachet from the broth and discard.


Add the potatoes to the soup along with the cabbage. Cook for 15 minutes to soften the potatoes and cabbage.


Meanwhile, place the shredded beets in a bowl with several pinches of salt. Set aside until the beets begin to soften and release their juice.


Heat the remaining tablespoon oil in a saute pan and add the beets. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes.


Stir the beets into the soup, and continue to cook for 5 minutes to marry the flavors (cooking any longer will cause the color of the beets to fade). Remove the soup from heat and set aside to cool.


Once the borscht has cooled, skim any excess oil from the top, and adjust the seasoning with pickling liquid and additional salt if needed. Serve garnished with pickled beets, dill and sour cream. This makes about 2 quarts of borscht.

Adapted from Paper or Plastik Cafe in Los Angeles.

Noelle Carter is the former Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen director. She left in January 2019.
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