Food + Drink

A Rosh Hashanah Recipe: Borscht Crostini

For Rosh Hashanah, we’re sharing a recipe from Leah Koenig’s Little Book of Jewish Appetizers—perfect for new year celebrations. The book features recipes for 25 inspired, modern starters, plus helpful sidebars featuring tips on how to build a Jewish cheese plate, what foods to buy rather than make, and more.

Read on for a note from Leah about the book, and her recipe for Borscht Crostini. L’ Shanah Tovah!

Beyond the dinner table, Jewish cuisine is filled with countless other little nibbles, snacks, party fare, and between-meal foods. These dishes—a still-warm knish or piece of strudel tucked into a child’s hand on the way out the door, a plate of buttercream-rich hummus split with a friend for an afternoon nosh, or a perfect bite of spicy, Sephardi-style meatball plucked from a platter at a cocktail party—are a compelling reminder that food doesn’t need to be big and bold to be magnificent.

The Little Book of Jewish Appetizers, the first of Chronicle Books’ Little Book cookbook series, is my ode to Jewish cuisine’s smallest delights. The recipes span the globe from Morocco (Moroccan Orange and Black Olive Salad) and Manhattan (Smoked Trout Canapés) to Russia (Mushroom Piroshki) and Rome (Fried Artichoke Hearts) to capture the tradition’s ultimate appetizers.

They include both classic dishes (Chopped Egg and Caramelized Onion Spread; Lahmajun; Perfect Tzatziki) as well as creative spins on traditional flavors (such as the Borscht Crostini, below). As a collection, I hope they delight, surprise, and like any good starter should, whet the appetite for more.

Borscht Crostini

Borscht Crostini

Whether served hot or cold, brimming with meat or completely vegetarian, the beet soup known as borscht has become a staple of the Ashkenazi Jewish repertoire. Perhaps that is because, amidst a sea of brown, heavy dishes—potato kugel, challah, cholent, latkes, and so on—borscht’s ruby color and tangy-sweet flavor offers a bright counterpoint.

I love to make borscht, but I do not fancy the cold version that is popular during the warm summer months. Instead, I transfer all the soup’s building blocks—roasted beets and carrots, pickled onions, fresh dill and garlic, and crème fraîche (aka fancy sour cream)—from the soup bowl to a piece of crunchy toast. The resulting crostini are visually stunning (red beets! springy chopped herbs!) and versatile enough to serve as party fare or be the center of a summertime snack or meal. Each component can be prepped in advance and assembled just before serving.

Serves 6

  • 3 medium beets, peeled, halved and cut into 1/2-in [12-mm] chunks
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-in [5-cm] lengths
  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup [60 ML] fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 small red onion, quartered through the root and sliced as thinly as possible
  • 3/4 cup [35 G] chopped fresh dill
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 large garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • 12 small, 1/2-inch [12-MM-] thick slices of sourdough or rye bread
  • One 8-oz [225-G] container crème fraîche or sour cream

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F [230°C] and line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Put the beets, carrots, 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and a generous amount of pepper on the baking sheet and stir to coat. Bake, tossing once with tongs, until the vegetables are tender, 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to the touch.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 Tbsp of red wine vinegar, the lime juice, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Add the onion slices and toss to coat. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once or twice, to soften and lightly pickle the onion. (Or cover and let sit in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.)

3. Place the dill, lemon zest, and garlic in a single mound on a cutting board and chop until the garlic is minced and the ingredients are well combined.

4. Turn the oven to 400°F [200°C]. Brush one side of the bread slices with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and arrange on two large baking sheets. Bake until crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

5. To assemble the crostini: Spread each bread slice with about 1 Tbsp of crème fraîche and top with a few pieces of beet and carrot and some pickled onion slices. Sprinkle with the dill mixture and more black pepper. Serve immediately.


Leah Koenig

Leah Koenig is a food writer and the author of Modern Jewish Cooking. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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