When I lived at the Zen monastery, Tassajara, in the Los Padres National Forest of central California, the winters were very chilly. The best way to keep the students warm in the meditation hall was to give them hot soup for lunch or supper. This is one of the recipes that we relied upon. This soup is hearty enough to be served as a main course which has the added benefit of giving the cook the freedom to enjoy the meal—necessary for a fun and relaxing time with family and friends.


  • Large soup pot with lid
  • Chef’s knife
  • Wooden spoon

Mise en Place

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, cleaned and finely diced
  • 1 cup washed and finely diced celery, about 4 stalks
  • 1 large diced onion
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 6 peeled and diced (1/2-inch) Yukon Gold or 5 russet potatoes
  • 6 beets, about 1 pound, peeled and diced (1/2-inch)
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced (1/2-inch)
  • 1 Tablespoon sauerkraut juice or to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon dill pickle juice from a bottle of pickles or to taste
  • 3/4 cup of finely chopped sauerkraut
  • 3 Tablespoons of fresh finely chopped dill
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4-5 thyme sprigs

Step by Step

  • Add the EVOO  to a heavy-bottomed cast iron Dutch oven or soup pot and heat
  • Add diced onion, celery and leeks, stir to coat, and season with salt and pepper, stir
  • Cook and stir occasionally until the onion is translucent about 5 minutes
  • Add chopped garlic, cook for 1 minute, stir
  • Add potatoes, beets and carrots and stir to mix vegetable 
  • Add 8 cups water or more to generously cover the vegetables
  • Add 2 tablespoons salt, you can add more as you go along—Do not over-salt—You can always add more—Keep tasting
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer
  • Simmer with lid slightly ajar for 20 minutes, or until potatoes, beets and carrots are tender by smashing them against the side of the pot
  • Add bay leaf, thyme, chopped dill, stir
  • Add chopped sauerkraut, sauerkraut juice and pickle juice
  • Taste broth and adjust seasoning—Remember it up to you and your taste buds


  • To serve, ladle into soup bowls, and garnish with chopped dill, sour cream, crème fraîche

Serves 6-8 with left-overs.


What I call a casual soup becomes into an elegant first course for a celebratory dinner or a wonderful way to introduce your baby to beets. Serve with sour cream, plain yoghurt or crème fraîche—Whatever appeals to you. Have fun making a design on the soup!

Step by Step

  • Place small amounts of the cold Borscht in a blender
  • Add enough water to thin the soup to a creamy consistency
  • Serve cold or hot
  • Garnish and serve

By Marilyn