borscht

A Bubby-licious borscht. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times / January 31, 2013)

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

Salt

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.

Borscht

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 strips applewood-smoked bacon, cut into lardons