Modern Love: Borscht Crostini
Shared by Leah Koenig
With all due respect to matzo ball soup, borscht is my Ashkenazi comfort soup of choice. I’m not talking about the chilled version, though that too hits the spot on a shvitzy day. I’m talking about steaming hot, fragrant, ruby-colored borscht that comes brimming with tender cabbage, carrots, and beets, and topped with a downy cap of sour cream. That’s the stuff my Jewish food dreams are made of.
It makes sense, of course. My mother's family's roots are Russian and Lithuanian - places where a taste for borscht runs in the veins. I ate the soup occasionally as a kid, but really fell in love with it after moving to New York in my early 20s. There, at the counter of B&H Dairy, an ancient kosher/vegetarian restaurant in the East Village, I tried the most garlicky, deeply savory bowl of borscht imaginable - and never looked back. When my husband and I were first dating, we would often stop at B&H after a night out for a borscht fix. He taught me the trick of ordering a matzo ball in your borscht. It seemed blasphemous at first, but it's actually genius: the soup's flavor soaks into the matzo ball, staining it a gorgeous shade of red. After that, I knew he was a keeper.
As a food writer who focuses primarily on Jewish cuisine, I constantly think about ways to take old world flavors and bring them into a contemporary context. While working on my forthcoming cookbook, the Little Book of Jewish Appetizers (which comes out in August), I decided to transform the building block flavors of the soup I love so much into something new. The result: borscht crostini.