Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Creamy Vegan Borscht

I had heard about Borscht several years ago- from a Russian colleague. The way I remember that story was her complaining about having to change her mom’s signature Borscht recipe because her Jewish husband wouldn’t eat it. So she switched to her mother-in-law’s recipe; and wasn’t that great a fan of it as her own (obviously….). I don’t recall what went into particular version, but I remember looking it up online and deciding that I wouldn’t like it because it had Beets in it.

After all, I am a staunch beet-hater (even though I’d never tasted them in my life….until I made this Swedish pickled beet salad)

The second time I looked up Borscht was maybe a year ago…again, from a newly-arrived-to- US couple from Armenia. They were educating me about the many vegetarian dishes from their country that I could eat - all because not only had I tread forth and tried out their potato pancakes, but actually liked them. They gave me a quick run down too…and again I convinced myself that I would never eat something with beets- or cabbages…..

The last straw- on the food channel I watch almost religiously. One girl made Borscht. It seemed like the simplest recipe ever. And she won! The judges couldn’t stop praising her soup. She used some fancy beets- that weren’t red; and she used absolutely no cabbage. Plus she used a hand blender to size down her chunks of beet.

That it what sealed it. I could leave out cabbage; and I could mash up the rest so I wasn’t eating boiled beets.

It must be fate then, that the next day I chanced upon one small forgotten beet from my husband’s juicing misadventure (read on; if you’re curious about this incident….). 

A recipe was dug up, Borscht prepared; and left untouched for 2 days……I just didn’t have the courage to taste it. 

…then when I did, I was stumped. Not at how good the soup was; but at the fact that I really liked it- beets and all…..May not be traditional Russian, but this is what went into my Creamy Borscht.

Creamy Borscht

1 small beet
1 yellow potato
2 carrots
1/2 sweet onion
1 cup  V8 vegetable juice
Water as required (I did not measure this…)
Salt to taste
A dash of crushed black pepper
Apple cider vinegar 2 Tbsp
Olive oil 1tsp

  1. I peeled and cut the beet, carrots and potato and pressure cooked it in 1 cup water. Once tender, I ran it all through my food processor.
  2. Saute the onions in a bit of olive oil.
  3. Add the pureed soup to it. 
  4. Mix in the salt, pepper, vinegar and V8 juice.
  5. Adjust consistency with water, Simmer an additional 10-15 minutes,  and serve.
My two cents: Now I can say this with confidence from personal knowledge - sometimes, it is not enough to test the waters; you do have to take a plunge in cold waters. This soup wasn’t worth all the hesitation. It is GOOD! One piece of advice though- don’t take it to work; the stains on my white formica work-table are quite an attention-grabber!

The sob story on beets: My husband took the “beets are rich in iron” theory to heart. For 3 straight evenings, he drank about 8oz. of carrot-beet juice after coming back from work. The 4th day- he spent the entire day in bed. Didn’t know what was wrong with him. His head hurt, he felt nauseous, had diarrhea and was just plain miserable. The only clue I got, was when he admitted that his discomfort began right after he’d had the beet-carrot juice that evening. A tiny bit of googling; and I found I could blame these beets.

Apparently, high-sugar fruits like beets create an overload of toxins in liver and kidney. The nitrates from beet can reduce oxygen availability, lower blood pressure, leading to weakness and fatigue. There’s tons more information out there on the negative effects of beets…

The trick is to keep it balanced. And use precaution while consuming raw, uncooked beets. Cooked beets; apparently are not as harmful. So go on; gorge on Borscht :-)