The Fallingwater Chef at Home: Try Tangy, Cool Borscht for a Warm Evening


Friends, family and neighbors are often reluctant to cook for or share with their favorite neighborhood chef. Perhaps my lifestyle is misconstrued, misshapen by social media posts and general “title bias,” but, despite my protestations, I get the impression that others think we dine only on sweetmeats and ambrosia, season every dish with truffles and foie gras. When without warning a warm loaf of amazing semolina bread was passed quietly over my backyard fence, I was delighted, if not overjoyed, at this shared treat.Borscht with buttered bread by Chef Tom

A warm slice of bread is one of those simple pleasures of life that is not to be underestimated and, as I happily chewed away, I was already thinking about how the next slices should be served. Once more I flipped through my worn copy of  "The Fallingwater Cookbook" and landed on a challenge: borscht. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the lovely beet – actually had a few in stock for a pickling project – nor the proud and sturdy cabbage, but I’d never actually eaten borscht. It is a rare dish in my world, last seen at the old delicatessens of New York when I lived there long ago. I felt like this was my golden opportunity to make and sample a classic old-world soup.

There are many variations of borscht, an ancient soup of Eastern Europe and Northern Asia, but the most common variation as it was brought to the U.S. by Jewish and Mennonite émigrés is a cold, slightly sour soup that is deeply red hued by beets, smoothed by sour cream and given heft by beef stock. Today, we add cabbage for more body, along with lemon juice to add the hallmark “tang.” This borsch, beloved by Edgar Kaufmann jr., is simplicity at its finest, a mere six ingredients that can be assembled by lunchtime and chilled for dinner.

The combination of this hearty, cool soup and a few slices of butter-slathered fresh bread turned out to better than I had imagined. The soup was filling and a lovely foil to the warm May evening, the tart duet of lemon and sour cream balanced well not only in the soup but by the homemade bread. Thanks, neighbor!

Borscht, from "The Fallingwater Cookbook"

IngredientsBorscht ingredients by Chef Tom

  • 4 C chopped, cooked beets
  • 1 quart beef broth
  • 2 C shredded cabbage
  • 4 Tb minced onion
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • Sour cream for garnish


  1. Wash four or five large beets. Remove tops and bottoms.
  2. Submerge beets in cold, salted water and boil until tender, when a fork easily pierces them.
  3. Cool, peel and chop into pieces.
  4. In a large pot, mix beef broth, beets, cabbage, onion, sugar and lemon juice.
  5. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Cool, then chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
  7. Serve in chilled bowls with a dollop of sour cream.


Enjoy and continue to stay safe!

"The Fallingwater Cookbook" is available online for purchase in the Fallingwater Museum Store. Did you make this recipe or buy the cookbook? Let us know by sharing your results on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.