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Restaurant recipes: Borscht from Paper or Plastik Cafe

April 20, 2013|By Noelle Carter | Los Angeles Times
  • A Bubby-licious borscht.
A Bubby-licious borscht. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

Dear SOS: In the heat of August, I stopped for lunch at Paper or Plastik Cafe. I had the most amazing cold borscht. It was light and refreshing and full-flavored and, like my bubby's, only distilled down to the essence of borscht. Is there any chance you could get Paper or Plastik to share the recipe?

Katya Culberg

Los Angeles

Dear Katya: A quick glance at that signature shade of red, and this might look like any run-of-the-mill borscht. But one bite and you're hit with a medley of flavors: a subtle hint of spice, the smokey hint of applewood-smoked bacon and the slight tang of quick-pickled beets. Light, yet rich and wonderfully satisfying, Paper or Plastik's borscht rocks.

2 hours, plus cooling times. Serves 6 to 8

Quick-pickled beets

2 red beets


1 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

5 allspice berries

1 clove

1. Place the beets in cold water and bring to a boil. Salt the water with 1 tablespoon salt, and cook the beets until they are tender and sweet, about 25 minutes. Drain and cool the beets under cold running water, then peel and cut into large dice.

2. Combine the vinegar with the water, sugar, allspice and clove, and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Remove from heat, cover and cool to room temperature.

3. Combine the cooked beets with the pickling liquid, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The beets will keep, refrigerated, for two weeks.


2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 strips applewood-smoked bacon, cut into lardons

1 carrot, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 small sweet onion, diced


1/4 cup water

1 clove garlic, minced or grated using a rasp

6 cups beef broth

Sachet containing 1 bay leaf, 3 whole allspice berries, 1 clove, 1 teaspoon coriander seed and 1 teaspoon fennel or anise seed

12 small boiling potatoes, halved, or 1 large boiling potato, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 head savoy cabbage, julienned

2 raw red beets, peeled and shredded

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 to 1 cup beet pickling liquid (from recipe above)

Pickled beets, for garnish (from recipe above)

Dill, for garnish

Sour cream, for garnish

1. In a 12-quart pot, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over low heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat is rendered out, 10 to 12 minutes.

2. Add the carrots, celery and onion to the bacon. Season lightly with one-fourth teaspoon salt, stir, and add the water to the pot and cover. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Stir the garlic into the vegetables and cook for a minute to marry the flavors, then add the beef broth and sachet. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue cooking for 30 minutes. Remove the sachet from the broth and discard.

4. Add the potatoes to the soup along with the cabbage. Cook for 15 minutes to soften the potatoes and cabbage.

5. Meanwhile, place the shredded beets in a bowl with several pinches of salt. Set aside until the beets begin to soften and release their juice.

6. Heat the remaining tablespoon oil in a sauté pan and add the beets. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.

7. Stir the beets into the soup, and continue to cook for 5 minutes to marry the flavors (cooking any longer will cause the color of the beets to fade). Remove the soup from heat and set aside to cool.

8. Once the borscht has cooled, skim any excess oil from the top, and adjust the seasoning with pickling liquid and additional salt if needed. Serve garnished with pickled beets, dill and sour cream. This makes about 2 quarts of borscht.


Calories 355

Protein 10 grams

Carbohydrates 53 grams

Fiber 6 grams

Fat 12 grams

Saturated fat 3 grams

Cholesterol 10 mg

Sugar 13 grams

Sodium 873 mg

NOTE: Adapted from Paper or Plastik Cafe in Los Angeles.

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