Saturday, November 7, 2009

GardenCuizine Recipe: Healthy Borscht

Healthy Beetroot Borscht

Beets (Beta vulgaris) are easy and fun to grow, with excellent heirloom and hybrid beet cultivars to select from. We've only tried 'Chicago Red' so far, a typical all-purpose, red beet. Next season I hope to try Italian heirloom 'Chioggia (Bassano)', a jazzy, two-toned, red and white striped variety that arrived in the U.S. before 1865.

My favorite photo with beets was featured in my first Dave's Garden article, 'Mommy, look what I picked...'. Little Michalah shows off her bountiful harvest of fresh beets that she helped dig up with her Grandmother.

All parts of the beet can be used in recipes. Beet greens can be added to soups or sauteed. Beet leaves are a bit thick to add raw to salad, but taste good when picked young and tender or sliced thin enough. Beet roots can served many ways, including in juice bar drinks, pickled, shredded raw, cooked and diced on salads. Beets are the star in borscht -- a more sweet than sour soup.

Beetroot borscht can be served hot or cold, but is truly a comfort foot when served hot with a side of wholegrain bread.
Borscht is a favorite in many countries including Lithuania, Russia, Poland, Ukraine and Romania. Poland, borscht (barszcz) is made with dumplings and parsnips. Ukrainian recipes often add potatoes. Romanian borscht (borș) includes fermented bran in the broth base. Your borscht can include meat, potatoes, parsnips, beans, bay leaves, lemon juice, vinegar or whatever your fancy.

You'll see in my soup recipes, unless the soup is a meat flavored soup, I prefer veggie bases
made on the spot from carrots, celery, onions, fresh herbs and spices. The flavors are always delicious, and your vegetarian family and/or friends can enjoy it too!

GardenCuizine's borscht is nutritious, low-fat and on the lighter side, making it a nice accompaniment to a full course meal.
A few tips about this recipe
  • Don't stress out or get hung up with measuring ingredients. Soups are not an exact science like baked goods -- a bit more or less will not ruin the recipe.
  • Our garden was a hot pepper factory this summer! Hot peppers make a tasty addition to borscht. If you don't have any hot peppers around, season to taste with a little hot sauce. Adding just enough hot spicy flavor is a great way to trick your taste buds into enjoying lower sodium foods.
  • I used regular canned tomato sauce in this recipe, rather than salt free. It's the main contributor of sodium in this soup. You won't need to add additional salt.
  • Fresh dill lends itself to freezing well. Rinse it and place it in an airtight baggie in the freezer and use as needed. It will stay green and will always be available for recipes when needed.
  • Use the beet cooking liquid in your soup to avoid losing water soluble vitamins and nutrients, such as: thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin, vitamin B6, folate, biotin, pantothenic acid, and vitamin C.
Putting it all togetherYields: a healthy pot full! 10 Servings

3 large (or 4, 2-inch) fresh beets

10 cups water (approximately 8 cups beet cooking liquid and 2 cups water)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 cup (128g) chopped carrots

1 cup (160g) chopped onions

1 cup (101g) chopped celery
1 small hot pepper (or hot sauce to taste)
1 teaspoon (1 clove) minced garlic
1/2 green cabbage (454g), sliced thin8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 Tablespoons sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh dill

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
sour cream, plain yogurt or creme fraiche
fresh dill or parsley for garnish

  • Rinse off the beets and cut of the greens, save them for future use in other recipes. Place the beets in a large (non reactive) stock pot and cover them with water. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until tender when pierced. Turn the heat off and let the beats sit in the hot water while you work on the rest of the prep.
Reminder: save the beet cooking liquid for the soup
  • Chop carrots, celery and onion, set aside
  • Save the beet water for the borscht. Take the beets out of the hot water using tongs and let cool off in a bowl
  • In another large soup pot, on medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the chopped mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion) and the hot pepper. Let cook for 5-10 minutes. While this is cooking, return to the beets.
  • Peel all the beets. The skins easily rub off cooked beets with your fingers.
Toss the beet skins in your compost pile!
  • Dice half of beets, set aside
  • Puree the remaining beets with 2 cups of the beet water. You can do this in a blender or in a deep pot (to avoid getting beet juice splashed on yourself) using a hand held submersion blender (one of my favorite kitchen tools). Return to your cooking veggies...
  • Stir in garlic and dill
  • Add sliced cabbage, continue to stir, cooking down for another 5-10 minutes
  • Add tomato sauce, save the can
  • Refill the 8oz. tomato sauce can two times with water and add it to the pot.
  • Add beet cooking water to the pot too. Note: when beets boil some sediment settles to the bottom of the pot. Try not to add that part.
  • Add more water to the soup pot if you think it needs more liquid
  • Add sugar and black pepper
  • Stir, cover and simmer until all the ingredients are tender
  • Stir in fresh parsley
  • Serve with a dollop of sour cream, yogurt or creme fraiche
  • Garnish with a fresh sprig of parsley or dill
Related Links:We Got the Beet Dave's Garden article by Tamara Galbralth

GardenCuizine Nutrition Analysis: Calculated from USDA nutrient values
Excellent Source: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K
Good Source: Dietary Fiber, Folate, Manganese

1/10 of recipe, serving size: 380g (~1cup), Calories 60, Calories from fat: 13, total fat: 1.5g (2%DV), Saturated fat: 0.2g (1%DV), Omega-3 FA ~13mg, Omega-6 FA ~190mg, Vitamin A 2449IU (49%DV), Vitamin C 26mg (43%DV), Vitamin K ~41mcg (~51%DV), Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 152mg, Dietary fiber: 3g (13%DV), Protein: 2g (3%DV), Folate: ~65mcg (~16%DV)%DV), Manganese: ~0.2mg (~12%DV)

Percent Daily Values (%DV) are reference values for adults and children age 4 or older, and are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your personal daily values may be higher or lower based on your individual needs.

Nutrition Label courtesy of
Photo and Recipe Copyright © 2009 Wind. All rights reserved.


darius said...

Sounds luscious. I don't know why I've never made borscht... not in my ethnicity I guess. My neighbor still has a few beets n the ground, hopefully enough to make a pot of borscht!

GardenCuizine said...

Hi Darius,

My mom and I used to order Borscht at a Jewish deli in Cherry Hill, NJ. They are no longer there and I missed the soup. They made it sweet (probably why it was so good). Let me know how your borscht turns out if you make it, so nice to have a veggie sharing neighbor :)

Healthy regards,