As a cold-weather main course, this Eastern European soup (claimed by Ukrainians as the national dish) is a hearty stew of beef simmered with tons of root veggies: carrots, cabbage, turnips, parsnips, potatoes and onions. Its stripped-down summer version builds on a single ingredient, beets, which are simmered, shredded and chilled in the cooking water. The addition of sugar and lemon juice or vinegar provides the sweet-and-sour tang, while the beets dye the broth a characteristic red. For garnish, a dollop of sour cream is almost required; diced, boiled potatoes and slices of hard-cooked egg are traditional, too. You can also blend the borscht with buttermilk and serve it as a drink.
We leave the Continent briefly for appetizers. One is from the New World; the other is from a (very) old one.