Tag Archives: Beets

A Saturday Russian Feast!

22 Nov

This will be a 4-in1 post–four recipes in one post!  I’ve never shared so much cooking fun in one day!  My Russian friend Ksenia invited me and a few friends to her host family’s house for a fabulous Russian feast.  What a terrific day for food and drink!  There were four courses to this meal, so this post may prove to be long…..But the common theme of the day is that everything we made has only a few simple ingredients with simple preparation.

From left to right, Ksenia, me, Michelle, and Sarah

I made borscht, a bright magenta soup made of beets, potato, cabbage, carrots, onion, dill, and vegetable broth, topped with plain, whole milk yogurt.  Michelle brought a simple Russian salad she ate often while she lived in Russia, and Sarah brought vodka, Kahlua, and cream to make White Russians, which is probably a very un-Russian drink.  Except that it contains vodka as a key element.  Ksenia made crepes using her grandmothers batter recipe.  So authentic!

Let’s start with the borscht.  There seem to be a million ways of making borscht–the only common element seems to be that all borschts are made with beets.  Ok, fair enough.  Borscht=soup containing beets.  I got it.  Here is the recipe for my borscht:


Ingredients

(Makes about 6 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 medium beets

3 medium carrots

1/2 large onion or 1 medium onion

1 russet potato

1 or 2 cups cabbage

8 cups of water or vegetable broth (I used a few tablespoons of Better than Bouillon organic vegetable broth paste, mixed with 8 cups of water)

3 tablespoons dill (it’s really, really hard to get too much dill)

Salt and pepper to taste

A few splashes of red wine vinegar

Preparation

Peel and chop the vegetables into roughly the same size.  Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, and stir to coat the onion in the oil.  Cook just a few minutes, then add the beets, carrots, and potato.  Stir to mix and coat in the oil.

Fill the pot with the broth or water, turn up to high, add a few teaspoons of salt, and grind some pepper into the soup.  When you soup comes to a boil, turn down to medium, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, add the cabbage and cook for 10 minutes more.  Make sure the beets are tender to test if the soup is done–they will be the last of the vegetables to finish cooking.  Once the cooking is finished, get out your blender.  Strain the vegetables using a slotted spoon (big spoon with holes in it), and add them to the blender.  Add a few ladles of broth.  Puree.  Dump your newly pureed soup into a separate large bowl and set aside.  Repeat this process until all the vegetables are pureed, and you’re left with some broth in the pot.  Only fill your blender about 2/3 full, because hot soup in a blender can be a dangerous thing.  Once all the vegetables are pureed, add them back into the pot of broth, and stir.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary–you may need additional salt at this point.  Stir in the dill.  Ladle your soup into bowls, top with more dill if you want, and spoon some yogurt over the top.  Yum!

Russian Salad

Ingredients

3 medium tomatoes

2 cucumbers

1 red bell pepper

1/2 cup fresh dill

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt to taste

Chop the tomatoes and bell pepper and add them to a large bowl.  Peel the cucumbers and chop, and add to the tomatoes and peppers.  Chop the dill, and toss it with the vegetables, olive oil, and add some salt to taste.

Of course, the White Russians!  Sarah mixing some up:

Sarah’s White Russian formula for two servings:

2 shots vodka

1 shot Kahlua

4 shots half-and-half

Ice

Mix and drink.  Repeat.

Last, but certainly not least, Russian crepes!  Ksenia making the inaugural crepe of the afternoon:

Ksenia’s Russian Dessert Crepes

Ingredients

2 eggs

2 tablespoons sugar

a few pinches of salt and baking soda

2 cups of flour

2 cups of water

1 cup hot milk

Butter

Preparation

Heat a crepe pan or skillet over medium heat.  When I make crepes, I just use my stainless steel skillet and coat it in butter between each crepe to keep them from sticking.  Crepe pans don’t require butter.  Heat the milk in the microwave for about a minute and a half.  Add to a mixing bowl, and beat in the 2 eggs, add the water and the rest of the ingredients.  Mix using a whisk.

Once the pan is hot, use a ladle and spoon a ladle-full of batter onto the pan.  Immediately pick up the pan and move it around to spread the batter around.  The crepes will only take a minute or two to cook, and don’t really require flipping.  They are so thin that they cook on both sides at once.

For fillings, we used apples, strawberries, ricotta cheese, honey, and sour cream….not necessarily all together!  I spread some ricotta on my crepe, added apples, and a bit of honey.

Wrap up, and enjoy!

What a fun afternoon!  Thanks ladies!

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Roasted Beets and Sweet Potatoes with Lentils, Arugula, and Goat Cheese

1 Nov

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I may be about to expand your definition of a salad.  This one contains lentils, vegetables, and arugula, and has no dressing.  A vinaigrette dressing would be good here, but I didn’t find it necessary at all–the salad has plenty of flavor without a dressing.  I like to experiment with salads combining lentils or beans, a type of grain, an herb or green leafy vegetable like spinach, and vegetables or fruit.  For example, I recently made a salad with millet (an underused grain a lot of people are unfamiliar with except as it applies to bird seed), black beans, cilantro, mango, and a red wine vinaigrette dressing.  Yum!

Salads that contain legumes, grains, veggies, fruits, and the like are great for a main dish, unlike a salad composed of mostly lettuce.  The legumes, in this case the lentils, are very satisfying and keep you full for a while.  It’s really a great lunch dish–easy to pack and you don’t even have to heat it up if you don’t want to.

It’s getting colder, and this time of year root vegetables come in season.  Root vegetables include beets, sweet potatoes,  potatoes, turnips, rutabaga, carrots, parsnips, and others.  In this salad, I used beets and sweet potatoes because I happened to have sweet potato and because I am trying to find more ways to eat beets.  However, you can use any one root vegetable or a combination of 2 or more.  I like the beets and sweet potatoes in this salad, because they are sweet and pair nicely with the hearty lentils.  Lentils are easier to cook than other types of beans–no need to pre-soak, and they take less than 30 minutes to cook.

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Lentils are charming.  I really think I like them better than just about any other legume.  For this recipe, I used green lentils, aka standard lentils.  There are other varieties you can use as well, but don’t use red lentils.  They are smaller, thinner, and lose their shape in a hurry.  They literally turn to mush after 30 minutes in a boiling pot of water, and are much better suited to making a soup, like Indian daal.

So, for the ingredients and amounts:

2 medium sweet potatoes

3 medium beets

Or…a combination of other roots to equal about the same weight (2 lbs, give or take a little) Carrots and blue potatoes would be a fun combo for a salad like this too.

1 cup dried green lentils

About 4 cups of water for cooking the lentils

Salt and pepper to taste

3 big handfuls of fresh arugula (baby spinach is a good substitute)

2 oz. goat cheese

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Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring the water to a boil, toss in the lentils, turn the heat down to medium, and cook covered for about 30 minutes.  Do not salt the lentils until after they cook.  Salt hardens beans and they take much longer to cook if they are salted.   You may make the lentils ahead of time if you like.  Once cooked, uncover and remove lentils from heat to cool. Then, drain the liquid using a strainer.  Add salt to taste.

Peel and chop the beets and sweet potatoes.  Mostly uniform pieces are important here–if you have giant pieces and small pieces together, the big pieces will take much longer to cook.  Exactness is unimportant, but basic uniformity is your goal.  Check out the sweet potatoes:

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Wear an apron and know that your cutting board will be stained when you handle the beets.  I love beets, but they stain everything.  A photo of beet surgery:

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Once your vegetables are chopped, place them in a medium mixing bowl and toss with a few pinches of salt, pepper, and the olive oil.

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Then, spread on a cookie sheet.

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Bake for about 35-40 minutes.  The beets won’t be as tender as the sweet potatoes, but will still be easy to pierce with a fork.  Then, mix the vegetables with the lentils.  Stir in the arugula and top with the goat cheese.  Taste and add salt if necessary.