Photo by Joseph De Leo; styled by Mariya Yufest
Similar in taste to their superfood cousin spinach, beet greens were supposedly enjoyed in North Africa long before ancient Romans discovered the plant's esculent, sweet root. Just like rhubarb and rainbow chard, red and yellow beets are packed with pigments known as betalains, antioxidants that provide detoxifying and anti-inflammatory support in addition to intense color.
As beetroot cells are unstable, any disruption to them (say, in the form of slicing and dicing) will cause their pigments to bleed onto clothing and fingers upon contact. Minimize cell damage and color loss by keeping the skins on during cooking, and wear gloves when peeling and chopping cooked beets -- or risk looking brazenly murderous.
In this simple recipe for chilled borscht, the classic Eastern European beet soup, beets are boiled and shredded, and then combined with diced cucumbers, scallions, fresh dill, and cool yogurt. The ingredients marry like soulmates, but the wisest addition is that of the reserved cooking liquid from the boiled beets, which serves as a resourceful and economical way to maintain the integrity of the soup's primary flavor. To make a full meal of it, serve with crusty bread, boiled baby potatoes, and/or hard-boiled eggs.
Lithuanian Summer Borscht by ixshelle
1 1/2 pound fresh beets
1 cup sliced scallions
3-4 tablespoons minced fresh dill
3 cups whole milk yogurt
Salt (to taste)
Dash black pepper
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Borscht brings on a nightmarish childhood memory. I was six or seven, my mom was a food writer for a newspaper, and she prepared borscht for an article she was working on. My brother and I had to eat it or we couldn't leave the table. I sat there for almost three days. This is not a lie -- you can even ask my mom! I've since conquered my fear of beets, and they have become one of my favorite root vegetables.
Pinot Noir is usually a dependable match with beets, but here you can also drink white as it will pair well with the yogurt. If you go with a white, drink something rich like Chardonnay or Riesling, both of which will hold up against the body of the soup.
2009 Bouchard Aîné & Fils Pinot Noir Bourgogne Rouge, France
2009 Beck-Hartweg "Cuvee Prestige" Riesling, Alsace, France
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How do you prepare borscht? Share your cooking tips and serving suggestions in the comments section below.
Like this post? See the Easy Everyday topic from last week: Cherry-Arugula Salad with Almonds and Tarragon.