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Simple Cooking: Here's A Twist On Allen Ginsberg’s Cold Summer Borscht

By Melissa Wiley in Food on Aug 29, 2013 3:30PM

Call us fickle, but honest summer temps, however dilatory, soon make us nostalgic for thick blankets, long scarves, and hot soup. Nothing quite spells comfort—and comfort food—like a late November bluster, aka cuddle weather. Fortunately, Allen Ginsberg's recipe for cold borscht is here to see us through summer’s final swelter.

In the interest of full disclosure, we confess that we are neither of Eastern European extraction nor even particularly good cooks. But we like our beets, and borscht is fun to say and may soon supplant “dammit” in our vocabulary. Plus, pink soup is very pretty. Ginsberg’s recipe, which came to light earlier this summer, inspired us to try our hand at the comeliest soup around because we’re always suggestible where those who penned sunflower sutras are concerned.

The Beat poet’s original formula for summer vegetarian borscht is asceticism that you can taste, calling for beets and little else besides a modicum of garnishes culled from the cupboard of a derelict kitchen. A devout Buddhist, Ginsberg lived and supped famously simply. His one real indulgence? A ledge extending from his East Village kitchen window to support his 12-gallon stockpot.

But we can’t all howl in free verse on such a spare diet, and the more the merrier in our cauldron. So here’s an adaptation that’s perhaps a little bit tastier. We can only hope Ginsberg would sanction the frills.


6 medium-sized beets, cleaned, peeled and thinly chopped, with stems and leaves also chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
1 cup shredded carrots
1 chopped onion
1 small chopped head of purple cabbage
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp fresh dill
2 tbsp fresh parsley
2 tsp of salt
Dollop of crème fraiche


Boil lightly salted beets for 40 minutes and then drain, reserving the water in a separate bowl. Cut beets into cubes and add back into liquid in separate pot. In large bowl, whisk vegetable broth, olive oil, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add mixture to beet liquid and then add chopped carrots, parsley, dill, cabbage, onion, and beet stems and leaves while stirring. Bring to a boil and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Chill for a few hours or overnight in fridge. Add a dollop of crème fraiche or sour creme before serving.