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 summertime snack or meal. Each component can be prepped in advance and assembled just before serving.
medium beets, peeled, halved, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 2-inch lengths
red wine vinegar, divided
extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
Freshly ground black pepper
freshly squeezed lime juice (from 2 limes)
small red onion, quartered and sliced as thinly as possible
chopped fresh dill
Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon
large clove garlic, coarsely chopped
small, 1/2-inch-thick slices sourdough or rye bread
crème fraîche or sour cream
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 450°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the beets, carrots, 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, oil, salt, and a generous amount of pepper on the baking sheet and stir to coat. Bake, stirring halfway through with tongs, until the vegetables are tender, 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to the touch.
Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon of vinegar, lime juice, sugar, and a pinch of salt together in a medium bowl. Add the onion 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.)
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.
Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F. Place the bread on 2 baking sheets. Brush the tops with oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until crisp and golden-brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
To assemble the crostini: Spread each bread slice with about 1 tablespoon 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.
Make ahead: The onions can be pickled and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 1 day ahead.
Reprinted with permission from Little Book of Jewish Appetizers by Leah Koenig, copyright (c) 2017. Published by Chronicle Books.