Photo by Conner Middelmann-Whitney – www.modernmediterranean.com
Beets may not be everybody’s favorite root vegetable, but this recipe may just reconcile all but the most recalcitrant beet-hater with this gorgeous superfood. One reason to eat beets is that they are the only food that contains co-called betalains, plant nutrients with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying properties. In lab studies on human tumor cells, betanin (a type of betalain) from beets has been found to reduce tumor cell growth through a number of mechanisms, including inhibition of inflammatory enzymes. Don’t worry if your urine turns pink after eating beets; some 10-15% of all U.S. adults experience “beeturia” after eating beets (as shown in a recent episode of TV comedy show, Portlandia). While this is not harmful per se, it may indicate problems with iron metabolism: Individuals with iron deficiency, iron excess, or specific problems with iron metabolism are more likely to experience beeturia than people with healthy iron metabolism. So if you experience beeturia and have any reason to suspect iron-related problems, ask your doctor to check your iron status.
Traditional Russian borscht includes beef, but vegetarians can leave out the meat, use vegetable stock and add one to two poached or hard-cooked, chopped eggs per person just before serving. The vegetarian version tastes great served cold in the summer. Serves 4. Freezes well.
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1.1 lb/500g pastured beef shank slices (bone-in) or lean stewing beef cut into 1-inch/2-cm cubes
1 large red onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely grated (no need to peel these)
1 celery stick, finely diced
1½ quarts/1½ liters home-made, de-fatted beef stock, or water
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried dill
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 lb/450g cooked beets, shredded on a box grater
1 lb/450g red cabbage, finely sliced (use a mandolin if you have one)
2 waxy potatoes, peeled and finely cubed
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt, freshly ground black pepper
4 sweet-and-sour dill pickles, finely diced
1 cup/250g fat-free Greek yogurt
8 sprigs of fresh dill (one per plate)
chopped dill pickles as garnish (optional)
In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, sauté the beef in the olive oil until browned. Transfer to a plate.
In the fat remaining in the pot (add a little more oil if necessary), cook onion, garlic, carrots and celery for 6-8 minutes, stirring. Add stock or water (whichever using), tomato paste, bay leaves, oregano, dill and vinegar and bring to a boil. Return the meat to the pot, stir to combine and cover. Simmer on low heat for around two hours, until the beef is tender. (A slow cooker yields the tastiest outcome; cook on “low” for 8 hours.)
Once the meat is tender, add grated beets, shredded cabbage and diced potatoes, and stir to combine. Bring back to the boil and simmer, covered, for another ½ hour. (If using beef shanks, take the meat out of the pot, allow to cool for 10 minutes and cut into small pieces before returning it to the pot along with the beets and cabbage. Mince the bone marrow and add it to the stew – it provides delicious flavor and valuable nutrients.)
Once the cabbage is soft, season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve in individual soup bowls, topped with a blob of Greek yogurt, a sprig of fresh dill and offer diners chopped dill pickles to scatter over their soup, if desired.