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

Local Ingredients

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.

Botvin'ya

Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Appetizer, Main Dish, Soup
Cuisine: Eastern European
Keyword: fish, greens, kvass, lycooking, lyukum cooking lab, recipe, seafood, soup, vegetables
Servings: 2 portions

Ingredients

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

Instructions

for greens puree

  • Wash all leafy vegetables.
    Making Botvin'ya: Greens
  • 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.
    Making Botvin'ya: Blanching Greens
  • 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.
    Making Botvin'ya: Prepping Greens for Puree
  • 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.
    Making Botvin'ya: Greens Puree

for making cucumber and dill mixture

  • Quarter cucumbers, cut off seeds, and finely chop the rest.
    Cutting Cucumbers
  • 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.
    Making Botvin'ya: Cucumber, dill, and scallions mixture

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.
    Crawfish
  • 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.
    Making Botvin'ya
  • Pour 1 1/2 cups of kvass into each bowl and serve.
    Making Botvin'ya

Notes

Experimenting with Kvass in Texas
Other Cold Summer Soups Recipes in My Collection
Hill Country Watermelon Gazpacho
Okroshka
Nettles Botvinya (video recipe by Andrey Azarov)
Botvin'ya