Russian borscht has a strong flavor, which makes it tricky to pair with the right side dish. Borscht, which may be served hot or cold, is a silky soup made with fresh beets. Beets have a flavor that’s hard to describe, other than sweet and earthy. The soup can also contain a variety of meats and other vegetables. However, beet is still the dominant flavor in the dish, so sides that pair well with borscht must pair well with beets.
Bread is a staple when it comes to side dishes for borscht. Spread butter on pumpernickel toast for a richly flavored side that you can dip into the hot soup. Serve the hot or cold soup with white rolls for a mellow background flavor or with honey wheat rolls for a sweet taste. Sprinkle buttered breadsticks with garlic powder to add a hint of spice to the soup. Fold feta cheese into biscuit dough to make tangy biscuits to balance the sweet taste of the borscht.
Flavorful Side Sandwiches
Small sandwiches or half-sandwiches are classic sides for any soup, even borscht. Grill a marble rye and mozzarella cheese half-sandwich for a traditional side that enhances the sweet flavor of hot borscht. Stack pastrami, tomatoes, lettuce, Swiss cheese and honey mustard on a small wheat bun for a flavorful side dish that works with hot or cold borscht. Layer roast beef lunch meat, green onions, mushrooms, mayonnaise and horseradish sauce on Russian rye bread for a simple sandwich with a little bite.
Fresh Garden Salads
Garden salads that pair well with beets are typically those that also contain sweet and earthy flavors. Toss mixed greens, carrots, scallions and a balsamic vinaigrette together for a simple salad with a light flavor. Mix baby spinach, red cabbage, red onions, baby carrots and pickled beets together for a sweet and sour salad. Combine romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese and a citrus vinaigrette dressing for a tangy twist.
Steaming Hot Potatoes
Hot potato sides often pair well with hot borscht, mainly because potato has a mellow taste that allows the beet flavor to take center stage. Serve a baked potato with butter for a simple side that balances out the robust flavor of the beets. Mix green onions and sour cream into twice-baked potatoes to gently echo the tangy taste of the onions and sour cream often found in borscht. Toss home fries with garlic salt for a classic side that adds a subtle spicy flavor.
Light Fruit Salads
Not many fruits pair well with Russian borscht, but there are some that help bring out the sweet flavor of the cold soup. Mix red apples and walnuts with a little lemon juice for a side dish with a subtle flavor. Toss diced oranges, raisins and parsley together for a simple side with an acidic bite.
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