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.