A refreshing cold soup is pretty, too

Cold soups can be very refreshing to look at, as well as to eat. One of the prettiest is an iced borsch, which is a bright, summery shade of pink. Serve it in a large tureen and surround it with small individual bowls of the garnishes.

Baking beets in the oven is an easy way to cook them, and it preserves color. The skins will slip off easily when the beets cool. Use this method for beet salads and pickled beets, too.

Martha Stewart, an avid gardener as well as a caterer and food writer, includes this recipe in her book, ''Entertaining'' (Clarkson Potter, $35). Her version is lighter than the classic borsch, especially if you use chicken broth for its base. Sour cream softens the color and flavor of the purple-red beets. Iced Borsch 12 medium beets 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and minced 2 carrots, peeled and finely grated 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 2 teaspoons sugar 6 cups chicken or beef broth 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice Salt and pepper to taste 2 cups sour cream

Garnishes: boiled potatoes, peeled and cubed; chopped fresh dill; cucumber, skin on, cubed; hard-boiled eggs; sour cream.

Wash unpeeled beets. Wrap in aluminum foil and put on baking sheet in 350 -degree F. oven. Bake until fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Cool, peel, and grate.

Saute onions and carrots in butter for 10 minutes. Add beets, sugar, and broth. Simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Puree in food processor or food mill. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Chill.

Stir soup into sour cream. Serve with bowls of garnishes. Makes 10 servings.

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