Of course. I would not be Moldavian/Ukrainian (Yes, I am both) if I didn’t post a borscht recipe here. But you know what’s interesting? When I first moved to Canada and I kept hearing people from here saying “Borscht”, obviously I got the idea of the dish they were referring to, but I didn’t get the “t” in the end. And no one seems to bring it up. Or do they? Well, the fact of the matter is that there is no “t” in “borsch”. And I wonder who was the first person to add a “t” to this word. I agree, not the easiest to pronounce, but I wouldn’t say that the “t” makes it a lot easier. For me, the word “murder” is more difficult to pronounce than others. But if I add a “t” to it, it wouldn’t make it easier…murdert.
Whoa there, nice jump from a yummy soup to murder. Well, you can say that you’ll “murder” this bowl of borscht when you’ll have it (I’ll refer to borsch as “borscht” just for easier reference. And this name thing reminds me of this).
Well, let me tell you something about borscht. It’s the quintesential soup in Eastern European countries (Moldova, Ukraine, Bielarus, Russia – you name it). It’s actually so important that we don’t call borscht a soup. We have borsch, and then soups. Totally different things. I grew up eating it A LOT. And, as a kid, I obviously did not appreciate borsch, and would rather eat sandwiches all day. So, whenever I was home alone (and that was WAY back in my day), I knew that my mom would check the pot to see if I had any borscht today, I would throw it into the toilet (GASP). Just a bit though. My regular portion. Oh mother, please forgive me. She did, eventually. But I still have nightmares about that perfect borscht being swept by the sewage. And I wake up yelling “BORSCH”,
then I remember I’m in Canada and add a silent “t”.
On a more serious note though – this borscht is absolutely amazing. Don’t freak out when you’ll see the list of ingredients – most of it is just veggies and you’ll be done chopping/shredding them in no time. The active cooking time for borscht is minimal, as long as you prep everything in advance. I HIGHLY suggest that you eat this with fresh garlic (if you don’t have a date; or if your date is having some too) and toast with Earth Balance (vegan margarine). It’s just heavenly!
Ingredient Limelight: Beets
What it is: Disclosure: This is not about Beats by Dr. Dre. Beets are root vegetables, but their greens are edible and the nutrients of those greens are wonderful. However, I want to concentrate on the root itself today. Beets are a prehistoric vegetable and for a long time only its greens were consumed. Only around the Roman Empire time, beets started creeping into our food (thank you for that, beets!). Beets are a part of the chenopod family and their brothers are chard, quinoa, spinach and many more.
What it does: Usually when I choose an ingredient to focus on, I suspect that it’s going to be a very health beneficial one. But beets truly surprised me. First of all, beets are very low in calories and contain 0 cholesterol. The fun benefits begin with nitrates. The good kind of nitrates though – naturally occurring in vegetables. So, naturally occurring nitrates in beets turn into nitric oxide in our body, when consumed. Nitric oxide expands blood vessels which gives them more room to circulate oxygen, more nutrients and energy. Studies show that this action enables people to workout 16% more after consumption of beet juice; cyclists rode 20% longer after 500 mg of beet juice. Also, after just 1 small serving of beets, blood pressure was lowered by 2% and professional divers were able to hold their breath for 11% more. That tells you that nitric oxide enhances your performance and your body’s endurance. But wait, there’s more! Nitric oxide also improves the efficiency of mitochondria (which transforms energy into forms that can be used by our cells) and also increases cell metabolism. The fact that nitric oxide expands blood vessels and gives them more enrgy and flow, shows that beets are actually an aphrodisiac. What? Such an unsexy vegetable is an aphrodisiac? Well, yes. It acts just like Viagra, only it’s natural and side-effects free. It increases blood flow, and Viagra does just that: it increases the blood flow into the male reproductive organs. Beets are also high in boron which plays an important part in the production of human sex hormones. Beets are rich in antioxidants called betalains. Studies show that they play an important part in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, inflammation and certain chronic diseases. Beet juice has been shown to decrease nitrosamines production, which are cancer causing agents. Beets are also important in phase 2 detoxification. In this stage, there’s this family – Glutathione-S- Transferase (or the GSTs) that binds unwanted toxins and makes them water-soluble and then out of the body through the urine. Beets increase the GSTs activity hence aiding your body in detoxification. Beet’s pigment called betanin has been also shown to inhibit tumor cells growth. And if that’s not enough, beets are rich in vitamin C and manganese. These are known antioxidants.
What it has: Beets are an excellent source of folate (so ladies wanting to conceive or already pregnant – get your beet juice on, or this borscht). They are also a very good source of manganese, potassium and copper. And of course, a great source of fiber.
What to lookout for: Beet greens are considered a source of oxalates, and beet root as well, but to a much lesser extent. Also, there’s this condition called beeturia (sounds like the name of a town) where after consumption of beets in any form, your urine has a pink/red tint to it. By itself it’s completely harmless, but it can show the person that it has some issues with iron (be it a deficiency or excess or the metabolism itself). So, check your iron levels if you’re affected by beeturia. And also, if you haven’t consumed beets in the last day or so and experience pink/red urine, see your doctor urgently. Another, more exciting thing that really happens just because of beet’s color pigments is pink/red tint to your bowel movements. And the fun thing is that you can test your digestion through it. If you ate something with beets (I believe raw beet will stain your stool more) and did not have a pink/red stool within 12-24 hours, it means you have elimination problems and should consider increasing your fiber intake, drinking more water and other fun stuff that I will post later. Enough of this crap talk (could not resist)! Beets stain your skin a bit, so you can either wear gloves or wash your hands after handling them (with a little lemon juice).
Cooking, forms and variety: Beets are generally red/purple, but can come in yellow and white varieties. Some of the beets’ nutrients can be destroyed by long cooking periods. So, for best results, either steam your beets for 15 minutes (skin on, quartered) or bake for an hour or less (covered in foil, skin on) or eat raw. You can add them to juices, smoothies, soups (borschts), salads, sandwiches even and sauces/dressings (and a recipe will be coming soon with the most colorful sauce/dressing ever).
Vegan Borscht (aka Borsch)
- 1 cup dry beans (any kind), soaked overnight
- 11-12 cups of filtered water
- 1 Onion, chopped
- 2-3 beets, shredded
- 4 cups shredded Brussels sprouts
- 2-3 celery stalks, chopped
- 5 medium carrots, shredded
- 1 Bell pepper, chopped
- Seasoning and spices:
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 bouillon cubes (try to find GMO and MSG free)
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon adobo sauce
- juice of 1 lemon
- Optional (but highly recommended)
- Parsley, chopped
- Fresh garlic cloves
- Toast with vegan margarine
- Take your soaked beans and wash them under running water. Cover them with 11-12 cups of filtered water in a large pot and bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, prep your veggies. If you have a food processor, this will only take 5 minutes. Chop your onion, celery, bell pepper and Brussels sprouts and shred your carrots and beets. Keep the onions separate, and you can just throw the rest of the veggies in one bowl.
- Water saute your onions and set aside.
- When the water with the beans has reached its boiling point, reduce the heat to medium and throw in the sauteed onion and the rest of the chopped/shredded veggies. Leave the borscht simmering on low-medium heat for 30-40 minutes depending on the beans.
- Add all of the seasoning when the beans are almost ready (cooked but still crunchy a bit). Simmer for 5-10 more minutes and you're done.
- Serve with some chopped parsley in each plate, garlic on the side and toast. Or with garlic toast. Enjoy!