(Aaron Egan)

Chef Aaron Egan’s borscht is brilliantly magenta, rich and flavorful with a beautiful sweetness from both the roasted beets and the coconut milk.

A few years ago, I presented an exciting popup dinner event with some friends who run Sarap, a Filipino popup. I’d recently learned about the Jewish community in the Philippines, mostly refugees from Eastern Europe during the 1930s. We set out to create a menu that would represent local flavors and ingredients while keeping a sense of Jewishness and Old-Country feel to our dishes.

Chef Aaron Egan
Chef Aaron Egan

As a soup course, we took the common use of coconut milk in Filipino cuisine and added it in place of the classic sour cream to an otherwise normal borscht recipe; the result was brilliantly magenta, rich and flavorful with a beautiful sweetness from both the roasted beets and the coconut milk. At our tasting night, both the Filipino friend and the friend with the Polish grandmother agreed that the soup tasted exactly like home, in ways they couldn’t quite quantify.

Coconut and Beet Borscht

Ingredients

  • 2 red beets
  • 1 Tbs. + 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Spanish onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 cups coconut milk (1 14.5-oz. can, with a small amount of added water, will work)
  • Salt + pepper to taste
  • Herbs, infused oils and other appropriate garnishes

Directions

  1.  Preheat oven to 450°F. Drizzle a little vegetable oil on each beet, then wrap them snugly in aluminum foil. Roast them for 45 minutes to an hour, or until soft through and through (use a skewer or a knife to determine doneness.)
  2. Allow the beets to cool, with the foil slightly opened, until you can handle them comfortably. Using paper towels, or a sacrificial cloth towel, wipe the skin of the beets off with a firm but not crushing amount of pressure. If the skins do not slip off easily, pare them off with a knife. Cut the peeled beets into chunks and set aside.
  3. Heat the 2 Tbs. of oil in a saute pan over high heat, and saute the onions and garlic until the onions have softened, become shiny and are very fragrant.
  4. Combine the roasted beets, onions and garlic, and coconut milk in a blender. Puree at high speed until completely smooth. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve hot or cold, at your preference, with a beautiful set of garnishes, like herb-infused oils, pureed golden beets, microgreens or just a little chopped parsley. 
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