Beet And Cabbage Borscht

I don’t know about where you live, but where I live is cold- really cold; and with the dawn of winter I have ramped up my soup making efforts. I looove making soup; in fact, of all the things I’ve been trained to make, soup is my favorite. I place soup up on a pedestal with the likes of smoothies, simply because, just like smoothies, one can pack a great many health promoting ingredients into one soup. For instance, this borscht soup, although distinguishably stained the color of beets, boasts an enviable amount nutrients from the cabbage.

Now I’ve waxed poetic, at length, about the many health benefits of beets; but cabbage, poor cabbage, never gets the credit its due. Yes cabbage is the culprit in many gaseous incidents, but a little flatulence won’t turn me off; here’s why!

In the world of vegetables, the brassica family (kale, cauliflower, broccoli etc) are king, but the one brassica that lords over the rest is, hands down, cabbage. When we speak of cabbage, we are referring to the large, lettuce like head that has been a culinary staple for over a millennia. Eaten raw, it’s the stuff of slaw; however, when cooked, it is hard to ignore- likely because of the rotten egg aroma that results. But to my point, the cabbage family is probably one of the most important vegetables on the planet, from a nutritional and cancer fighting point of view.

I know we are almost to the end of October, and breast cancer month and thinking pink has long left the forefront of your mind; but let it be known, that in October and all year for that matter, cabbage keeps breast cancer at bay. The breast cancer protective properties of cabbage came to the attention of researchers when they observed women in Eastern Bloc countries such as Russia and Poland were far less likely to develop breast cancer than American women. After close analysis, they uncovered that these women have a much higher intake of cabbage. Indoles which are in abundance in all brassica’s alter metabolism in a favorable way, one that is likely to reduce the risk of cancer.

But the anticancer benefits don’t stop with just indoles. Other phytochemicals that pack an anticancer wallop and are plentiful in this delicious plant are dithiolethiones, isothiocynates and sulphurophane (which is to blame for its pungency). Sulphurophane increases the production of certain enzymes known as phase-2, which can disarm damaging free radicals and help combat carcinogens; and it’s believed that phase-2 enzymes may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

So what’s a little flatulence when you consider the laundry list of health benefits?!

This borscht soup recipe was born out of a craving. After a delicious brunch at Bonjour Brioche in Toronto, where I ordered the most delicious borscht, I couldn’t get the flavor out of my head. So upon my return to Edmonton, I made quick work of satisfying my hankering. As with chicken noodle soup, there is a different borscht recipe for everyday of the year; some with beef, some without; some with cabbage, and some without. I decided to pick and choose elements from various recipes to customize my own.

In order to create a depth of flavor unrivaled by any borscht I’ve had before, I roasted the garlic and the beets; and I have to tell you, that although this creates an extra step, it’s hands down, 100%, worth it. Aside from the kefir garnish this recipe is completely vegan; but because I took the time to develop the flavors of the garlic and the beets, the meat was not missed. I even fed this to hard core carnivores and they approved. With that said if you don’t have the time to roast, the step can be skipped and this soup will still yield delightful results.

This borscht is hard the nose, but, oh so easy, on the mouth!

2 onions, small dice
2 celery stalks, small dice
1 carrot, small dice
1 leek, sliced into half moons
½ savoy cabbage, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves
4 beets, trimmed
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 ½ tsp salt + ½ tbsp
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp Organika coconut vinegar
1 tbsp kefir (per serving), optional

Wrap garlic (leave the skin on the cloves), beets, ½ tsp salt and 1 tbsp coconut oil in tin foil and roast in an oven heated to 400OF for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a thick bottom soup pot on medium heat, heat the remaining oil; add the onions and 1 tsp salt and cook, stirring consistently, for 20 minutes- or until the onions are deeply fragrant and browned. Then add the carrots, leeks and celery; and continue to stir.

Remove the beets and garlic from the oven; squeeze the roasted garlic from its skin and stir into the pot. Allow the beets to cool and wrap each in a tea towel and rub to remove the skin. Grate the beets and add to the pot, along with the cabbage and vinegar. Stir and cook 1 minute. Taste and season with the remaining salt if necessary; add the stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with 1 tbsp of kefir.