Green, Light, and Refreshing
This season I returned to making real kvass, which resulted in rediscovering some traditional kvass-based Slavic cold soups — Russian botvin’ya, Belorussian haladnik or bats’vinne, Ukrainian cold borsch, etc.
“The name of the soup comes from the Russian word botva, which means “leafy tops of root vegetables,” and, true to its name, it is made with the leafy tops of young beets, sorrel, scallions, dill, cucumbers, and two types of kvass. Mustard, garlic, and horseradish are then added for flavor. The vegetables are rubbed through a sieve and kvass is poured over.” — wiki
This recipe is based on Maxim Syrnikov’s botvin’ya recipe (Russian Home Cooking | Русская домашняя кухня by Bonnier Publications, Эксмо, 2009).
The best botvin’ya is made with sour shchi, a naturally carbonated malty type of kvass. Its flavor is more complex than the flavor of every-day drinking kvass, thus it has its own name. If you make some kvass bread and than real kvass at home, it’s only natural to continue with botvin’ya next.
Botvin’ya is made with the best tasting salmon or trout species you can get, slightly salted or gently poached. Boiled and shelled fresh water crawfish tails are also a traditional ingredient of botvin’ya.
Green leafy vegetables are the third important component. There are recipes with only one leafy vegetable, like nettles or beet root tops. It can also be a combination of five or six of them, including sorrel, spinach, goutweed. It’s easy to get them for gardeners or foragers. The rest of us will probably buy the greens in our local supermarkets. Luckily there is great selection of fresh organic produce available every day. My favorite combination is Central Market Organics Power Greens, a delicious blend of organic baby spinach, mizuna, chard, and arugula. You need about 1 to 1.5oz of greens per portion, so a 5oz box is good for 5 portions. I puree the whole box of greens and freeze what is not immediately used for other soups.
Botvinya is always served with finely chopped ice.
Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Servings: 2 portions
for greens puree (5 portions)
- 5 oz mixed baby greens Central Market Organics Power Greens (spinach, mizuna, chard, and arugula)
- 2 bunches sorrel
- 1 pinch black pepper freshly ground
- 1 pinch salt adjust to taste
to assemble soup (2 portions)
- 3 cups kvass
- 8 oz salmon poached or gravlax
- 12 crawfish cooked and shelled tails
- 2 oz greens puree
- 2 cucumbers cocktail
- 4 scallions
- 6 sprigs dill fresh
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt adjust to taste
- 1 pinch black pepper freshly ground
- 4 tbsp ice finely chopped
for greens puree
Wash all leafy vegetables.
Prepare two small pots. Fill one with ~2 quarts of water and bring it to boiling. Place a colander into another one. Blanch greens by placing small batches in a colander and pouring boiling water over them. The goal is to soften them. Once they wilt and release their fragrance, they are good to be placed under cold running water to stop cooking.
Squeeze extra water from greens, chop them, and place into a blender jar. Make a puree. Using a scoop, make 1oz portions. Safe as many portions as you need for the soup, and freeze the rest.
Make a puree. Using a scoop, make 1oz portions. Safe as many portions as you need for the soup, and freeze the rest. Wrap frozen green puree in plastic and store in container frozen until the next use.
for making cucumber and dill mixture
Quarter cucumbers, cut off seeds, and finely chop the rest.
Finely chop dill, scallions, and mix them with cucumbers. Add salt and pepper, mix. I like to let the mixture stay in room temperature for about 15 minutes and let the salt to draw out some juices naturally. Traditionally, this mixture is smashed lightly with a wooden spoon.
for making soup
Freeze or refrigerate bowls before serving. Finely chop ice and keep frozen.
Prepare cooked crawfish tails. Prepare poached or lightly salted (gravlax) salmon or trout.
In the center of each cold bowl, place 1 oz of green puree. Arrange 2-3 tbsp of cucumber and dill mixture around it. Place a portion of fish and crawfish on top. Add 1 tbsp of finely chopped ice.
Pour 1 1/2 cups of kvass into each bowl and serve.