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This elegant beet consomme is a snap to make and an outstanding appetite stimulant--light but savory, and either warming or refreshing, depending if you serve it hot or chilled. It was a favorite of that extraordinary danseur and choreographer George Balanchine, who was born in Russia as Georgi Balinchinvadze, attended the Imperial Ballet School in (at that time) Petrograd, then became principal dancer in Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russe in Paris. Mr. Balanchine described Borschok as "a light, clear consomme, an essence of beet-beef extract, that should be drunk from thin china cups, not soup bowls, with sour cream and slices of lemon served on the side. Strictly on the side." I agree, but can't resist floating a paperthin lemon round on top before serving. Serve his "speedy" recipe either hot or cold as a first course to 6 people.

Garnish: sour cream, served on the side, and thin lemon rounds

Combine the beef stock, juice from the canned beets (juice only--you can use the reserved beets for something else), bay leaf, vinegar, sugar, and pepper in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Taste and correct the seasoning. When ready to serve, strain out the bay leaf and pepper, then pour into fine china tea cups. If you are serving cold, refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

When serving, you can either float a lemon slice on top of each serving, or serve the lemon on the side, also passing a dish whipped sour cream.