April 22: Global Dishes

From “A Nomad Homecook’s Perpetual Almanac Cookbook (The PAC)” (c) 2020 OTBI

Beetroot (beta vulgaris) is a root vegetable that is historically underappreciated in mainstream American cookery and only recently marketed as a “superfood”. Beets are a wonderful source of folate, iron, manganese, potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants, as well as nitrates. They literally make blood vessels more flexible, thus lowering blood pressure. Consuming beets appears to be especially beneficial for people with diabetes, shown to lower the risk of complications including nerve damage and eye damage.You can get too much of a good thing, however, so if you have kidney stones consult with your healthcare professional before adding it to your menu on the regular. Try adding shredded beet greens to your salads for an extra caress for earthy flavor.

Enter Borscht, a sour soup derived from an ancient predecessor consumed by early Slavic tribes. It was a foraged soup, prepared with pickled hogweed, which thrives in the wild, moist fields of the Baltic states and the expanses of Russia. Believed to have originated in Ukraine where it is a traditional daily meal, it’s a symbol of unity and the basis of the Ukrainian culinary tradition.

Borscht literally brings people together. It was born into our American family out of the Covid-19 quarantine of 2020. Living out of food storage to minimize grocery visits, we had everything on-hand to prepare it. I’d always wanted to try it out and it was better than I could’ve imagined. The flavor was earthy, sweet and it is a delightful color. Excellent with crusty bread slathered with fresh salted butter.

To note, some people experience beeturia (red urine) may occur after eating beets or foods colored with beet extract or pigments. No worries, this is due to a compound in beets called betanin, which is what gives the vegetable its red pigment. Although alarming if you forgot you ate beets it is nonetheless harmless and won’t last.

Borscht (Ukrainian-style)

makes 6 quarts, serves 8

Serve hot or cold, pureed or not. Refrigerate sealed up to 5 days.

Peel and thin-slice veggies; reserve. Sauté beets in a large pot over medium high heat for 10 minutes, until softened.   

2 tablespoon oil

3 beets

Add to the pot and cook 15 minutes, until tender. 

4 cups chicken broth

4-6 cups water

3 yellow potatoes

2 carrots

Finely chop vegetables. Sauté in a small saucepan over medium heat until softened.         

2 tablespoon oil

2 celery ribs

1 yellow onion

1 stemmed + seeded red bell pepper (optional)

Add to pan and stir fry for 30 seconds, then transfer to the beet mixture. Cook 5 minutes, until tender.           

1/4 cup tomato paste

Add to the pot then cook 10 minutes.

1-1/2 cups cooked cannelini beans, plus 1/2 cup broth

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1-1/2 teaspoon dill

1 minced garlic clove

2-3 tablespoon vinegar

Remove from heat and discard bay leaves. Season to taste and serve with sour cream.   

1/2 pint sour cream

Freeze in sealed portions for up to 2 months. Reheat to boiling for 2 minutes before serving.

*Beets’ high sugar content may be a concern for those with sugar sensitivities.

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