Super Sexy Borscht (gluten-free, vegan, ACD)

super sexy borscht

There's something about a beet. 

Very rarely do people feel ambivalent about beets. Our ruby-hued friend (or candy-striped, golden, or white...)  tends to polarize even the most adventurous eater, generally resulting in one of the following things: wildly passionate love or deep suspicion and disdain.  My feelings unquestionably lean toward the former.

Early summer is a special, dreamy time for any true beet lover. Small, sweet, and tender, early season beets remind me of little earthbound truffles, rich and complex morsels that rival any high-quality dark chocolate.  Even their greens are tender, with just a hint of the characteristic bitterness that pairs them so flawlessly with their rooty counterpart. As the summer goes on, the beets become large and robust and intense, their flavor grounded by a maturing earthiness that is unsurpassed. With the coming of autumn, temperatures drop and the earth cools.  And then, the other moment a true beet lover waits for happens: frost. Magical things happen when the first bit of frost bites; the sugars concentrate and the beet sweetens. Round and weighty, they sit ripe for the picking, their dark flesh like garnets and rubies.  

No matter the season and no matter the size, the impact of a beet's ravishing color and curvy shape is downright sexy

baby beets
baby beets

Beets remind me of a that mythical female character that is no-nonsense, confident, unapologetic, alluring, and just a bit of a puzzle.  She has lush, dark hair, an ample hourglass figure, the light of a thousand suns in her smile, and a twinkle in her eye.  This is the kind of woman that can change a car tire in her evening dress, and still show up on time to the party looking flawless.  She may serve an amazing meal of braised venison, only later revealing that she hunted that deer herself.  One moment she recites poetry, and the next she curses unapologetically.  She can win over even the crabbiest customer service person, and gets what she needs before you even finish explaining your problem.  Everyone wants to be her and be with her and be around her, because she's just plain fabulous. I want to be her.  

Does this woman exist anywhere?  I'd like to think so.

Now, I must admit that "she" bears a striking resemblance to Nigella Lawson, the infamous British chef and cookbook author.  The particular image that comes to mind shows the culinary pin-up girl reclining effortlessly on a ruby-colored sofa, dressed in a form-fitting (beet-colored) gown that certainly, um, celebrates her earthly assets. I wonder if she can change a car tire or hunt a deer in that dress... I'm imagining now and it's a great mental picture. 

Oh Nigella, you seductress, you're just like a beet.


Not Just Another Pretty Face

Not only is this soup gorgeous to behold (look at that color!!!), it has a killer flavor and is a nutritional powerhouse. Let's start with the star of the show, beets. Beets are a real superhero of the nutrition world, boasting incredibly liver-nourishing qualities, loads of fiber, and lots of vitamin C. They are nourishing to the blood, and are a warming vegetable that helps stabilize the spleen.

This soup is loaded with many other seasonal root vegetables, boasting a flavorful assortment of celeriac, turnip, and carrot.  All of these vegetables are widely available this time of year, and provide a concentrated source of carbohydrates that is perfect for the increased demands of winter. Leeks provide a classic sweet, pungent flavor, while garlic helps detoxify and stimulate the immune system.

If you use homemade chicken or turkey stock, you also get the benefit of nourishing fat, natural protein, and gelatin, which is healing to the digestive tract and provides all sorts of health promoting nutrients. Overall, this soup is an awesome way to give your body a natural boost in the chilliest time of year, and give you lots of super-powered earthy energy. If that's not sexy, I don't know what is.  

Love beets?  You may also like these posts:

And, in other news, we have an Allergy-Friendly Recipe Calendar giveaway!

Iris from The Daily Dietribe has written a lovely review of my recipe project A Year to Eat Freely: 2011 Allergy-Friendly Recipe Calendar. She is also giving away a copy of my calendar to one lucky reader! So, head on over to her blog, read the review, and sign up to be eligible for the giveaway!    

If you miss that giveaway, Ali from Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen will be writing a review and giving away a copy of my calendar later this month, so stay tuned!  And rumor has it that another blogger or two will be giving away a copy in the  new year. Or, if you just want to buy one, purchase one from my Etsy site and I'll ship it off to you. :)

super sexy borscht

Super Sexy Borscht

yield: 8-10 servings |

This soup has a wonderful sweet and sour flavor that is imperative, in my opinion, for any respectable bowl of borscht. I like it served warm and chunky, but if you prefer, puree until smooth and serve chilled instead.  I think this soup tastes better the second day, so don't be afraid to make ahead and reheat to serve.    Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients - this soup is incredibly easy and absolutely worth all the work to gather everything and prepare the vegetables. 

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil or ghee
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp whole caraway seeds
  • 2 medium leeks (white and light green parts only), sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, peeled and diced
  • 4 medium beets (either raw or roasted/boiled), peeled and cubed or thinly sliced
  • 2 medium turnips, peeled and cubed or thinly sliced
  • 1 medium celeriac, peeled and cubed or thinly sliced (1 medium potato could be substituted)
  • 1/2 head red or green cabbage, thinly sliced 
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 large  or 2 small bay leaves
  • 2 quarts chicken, turkey, or vegetable broth/stock
  • 1 quart filtered water
  • 1-2 Tbsp raw honey (or brown rice syrup or maple syrup if strict vegan)OR if on strict ACD, omit liquid sweetener and add 5-8 drops plan stevia liquid
  • 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar OR if on strict ACD, use 1/4 cup lemon juice or 1 tsp vitamin C crystals
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh dill or 3/4 tsp dry dill
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt or Herbamare
  • freshly cracked pepper, to taste

optional garnishes:

  • dairy/non-dairy yogurt or cream, cashew cream, or other creamy something of your choosing
  • freshly minced dill

Heat oil in the bottom of a large stockpot until very hot. Add cumin and caraway seeds and saute until they just begin to pop, and turn down heat to medium low.

Add garlic and leeks, saute a few minutes, then add celery and carrot and stir to coat with oil. Saute a few minutes, then add turnips, celeriac, and beets, stir, and saute for about 5 minutes with the pan covered. Then add paprika, bay leaves, water, and broth, turn heat to medium high and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook until vegetables are tender.  Add cabbage and continue to cook until cabbage is soft. Add honey, apple cider vinegar, salt, and dill and let cook 2-3 more minutes. Season to taste with pepper, and serve.

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