Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Beautiful Beet Borscht

Another one from guest blogger, Sam

For most of my adolescent years, there were very few plant-foods I didn’t like – though beets were front and center.  I think my childhood was marred with gelatinized purple slime from a can.  My first CSA in Massachusetts forced tons of beets into my fridge. With so many beets in my CSA, I was looking for ways to readily put them to culinary use.  Fortunately, I stumbled upon an Eastern European staple, borscht – thus propelling my love for beets.  Nowadays, I rarely make the soup the same way twice, though I’ve migrated from my original brothy-style to a hearty stewier version.

Stef has already promoted the stunning athletic benefits of beets. While throwing back a shot of beet juice might be your best bet as an ergogenic aid, loading with beet borscht leading up to a race is a sure-fire way to cost-effectively maximize the performance benefits.  Again, the benefits of cabbage can be found on yesterday’s recipe, and this soup is bolstered with some beans, making this dish a wannabe Laudible Legume.

The mixture is vibrantly colored! Beware, your hands might be stained accordingly.

I like to cook the beets in with the rest of the veggies in order to maximize the nutritional benefits.  They can also be baked first, and then added to the soup as it stews.  Separately cooked and mashed potatoes make for a great thickener, though they can also be stewed along with everything else and allowed to fall apart as the soup cooks. I personally love the anise-y perk of fennel seeds, though they can be omitted for less adventurous eaters.  While this recipe is vegan, vegetarian versions include a garnish of yogurt, sour cream or crème fraiche, and meat-eater versions can include beef, pork, or bacon.


1.5 tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp fennel seed, chopped fine
1 white onion, chopped
pinch salt
3 small beets, chopped
2 medium russet potatoes, chopped
1-1.5 c water
1 qt vegetable stock (or other broth or water)
1 lb red cabbage, chopped (about half a medium head)
3 medium carrots, chopped
15 oz can chopped tomatoes
15 oz can Northern beans (or other bean)
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 t salt, to taste depending on added salt to the canned goods
Cracked black pepper to taste

1) Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Added the garlic and fennel seeds to the heated oil, and sauté quickly to flavor the oil.  Add the onion, salt and beets, and sweat on low-medium or medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often to prevent charring.
2) In a separate pot, add the potatoes and water.  Simmer the potatoes for 10-20 minutes, long enough that they can be mashed in the cooking water.
3) Add to the stock pot the vegetable stock, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, beans.  Simmer the mixture for 30-40 minutes
4) Add the mashed potatoes, salt, pepper, lemon juice and vinegar.  Stir to combine, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, until the beets are the desired tenderness. Salt and pepper as desired.
5) Serve hot or cold, and garnish with your favorite version of cultured milk if you wish. Before long, you will be primed for maximal oxygen utilization.

The beets and onions will sweat in their own juices to bring out incredible sweetness. Keep stirring to prevent the beets from charring if they are too tough.

Thanks, Sam! Come back soon! 

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