Vegetarian Borsch

Borsch-V2

I recently had the honour of making a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner for some friends of mine. The Sviaty Vechir consists of a meal including 12 dishes that contain no meat and no dairy products. This special dinner is held on January 6th which marks the beginning of the Christmas season on the Julian calendar.

It is tradition that the family gathers around the table to celebrate the holiday that begins when the first star is seen in the night sky. The table is set and the candles are lit and an extra place is set for those who cannot be there. It is a night to celebrate and a night to remember ancestors.

The meal always begins with a serving of Kutia which is a pudding made from wheat berries often flavoured with poppy seeds, fruit, nuts or honey. This course is followed by Borsch soup, cabbage rolls, and various fish and vegetable dishes.

Since I am not Ukrainian I had to do some research before inviting my friends to dinner. I wanted it to be special, while preserving tradition.  I admit that I picked up a few of the dishes at the Deli and Ukrainian bakery in Toronto’s Bloor West Village. Even with the dishes that I picked up, I still had many more to prepare. I wanted to make it a meal to remember.

One of the dishes that I made was this rich, ruby-red borsch soup.The recipe can be altered by using beef broth but am posting the vegetarian version. The broth is light and flavourful and the vegetables add enough substance to make it a heart warming addition to any meal.

Vegetarian  Borsch

Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 cups vegetable broth
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4 large beets, peeled and chopped into ½ inch chunks
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into ½ inch chunks
1 large potato, peeled, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
3/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 cup sour cream (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Pour vegetable broth into a large pot and add beets, carrots, and potato; bring to boil.

Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Stir in cabbage and 1/2 cup dill; cook until cabbage is tender, about 15 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in vinegar.

Ladle soup into bowls. Top with a sprinkle of dill or a dollop of sour cream.

Beet, Red Onion and Endive Salad for a Meat Free Monday

I love going to my local bookstore. I try to spend an hour each week browsing through the various sections, seeking out what’s new and finding a treasure to bring home, I particularly love the food and wine section where I can see the latest cookbooks.

Last week I was wandering through aisles when I stumbled upon The Meat Free Monday Cookbook. I am ashamed to admit that I did not know much about this campaign until I started to read the book. Meat Free Monday is a program that was started by Paul McCartney and his family to create awareness about the environmental impact of the meat industry. Their theory is that if we all stopped eating meat for one day each week we could save money, eat healthier and have a positive impact on the environment by reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with livestock production.

The book provides 52 weeks of menus that include a breakfast, a packed lunch, a dinner, a side or a dessert recipe. Each of the weeks are segregated by the four seasons. contributors to the book include celebrity and chef supporters like Mario Batali, Yotam Ottolenghi, Kevin Spacy, Twiggy, Woody Harrelson,  and others.

I know many of you already skip meat once a week and many are vegetarians. I had already decided to cut down on my meat consumption as part of my commitment to a healthier lifestyle. I am not ready to give it up completely; at least not yet, but this book has certainly made me think harder about the idea.

That said, I am still constantly looking for great recipes and this book is a wonderful source. The recipes look so fresh and inviting and the photographs by Tara Fisher are beautiful.

This Beet, Red Onion and Endive salad is one of the most delicious salads I have ever had. I made it as a starter course for dinner last week and we ended up having second helpings before moving on to the main course because it was so good. It would make a great dinner or lunch entre.

Beet, Red Onion and Endive Salad

Ingredients

5 golf ball-size beets, trimmed of stalks and leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 cup pecans
2 tablespoons clear honey
2 red onions, cut into wedges
3 garlic cloves, whole and unpeeled
2 ripe pears, quartered, cored and sliced
2 heads of endive trimmed into separate leaves
1 large handful of arugula
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

FOR THE DRESSING

5 tbsp. walnut oil
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place a large piece of foil in a small roasting pan, put the beets in the middle, season and drizzle with half of the olive oil and the red wine vinegar. Wrap the foil over the beets and seal tightly, Roast the beets for 1 hour or until tender when tasted with the point of a sharp knife. Remove from the roasting pan, unwrap and cool.

Put the pecans in the roasting pan and drizzle with the honey. Stir to coat then roast for about 10 minutes until sticky and glazed. Remove from the roasting pan and cool the nuts on a plate.

Put the onions on a baking sheet, add garlic cloves, drizzle with the remaining olive oil, and roast for about 30 minutes until tender and starting to caramelize.

To make the dressing, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from their skins into a small bowl. Add the remaining dressing ingredients and gently whisk until just combined. Peel the beets and cut into wedges. In a large bowl, layer the beets, onion, pears, endive, arugula, crumbled feta, and honey coated nuts. Generously drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately.

Recipe from The Meat Free Monday Cookbook contributed by Stella McCartney

More Winter Fruit

Now that the holidays are behind us and we wait anxiously for the first signs of spring, it is time to take stock of our desire to lead a healthy lifestyle. Am I getting enough rest? Am I eating healthy foods? Okay, so I need to make some minor adjustments including preparing light healthy meals and making sure that I eat enough fruits and vegetables.

This winter I have spent my weekends building a food photography portfolio by cooking, styling, photographing and eating great looking foods. My daughters like to hang out after a photo shoot to see what great food they can taste. After all nobody wants to see all that good food go to waste.

Pears, bananas, grapefruits, oranges, tangerines and pineapples are all common winter fruits that are found in abundance at any grocery store or fruit market in Southern Ontario. I love the rich colour and the cool taste that oranges add to salads and fruit salads.

I have been experimenting with roasted beets this winter as well. I remember thinking that I would never eat beets again after a childhood of pickled beets from a jar. They were always served next to the sweet gerkin pickles at my grandmother’s family meals. On a recent trip to New York City I found myself trying a salad with roasted beets and feta and thinking I had discovered a whole new taste experience.

This salad is a variation of a recipe that I found in Olive Magazine. I hope you enjoy it.

Orange and Roasted Beet Salad
3 fresh beets
2 cups baby greens
2 oranges, segmented
1/2 red onion, sliced

Dressing:

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. orange juice
2 tbsp. whole grain mustard

Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Toss beets in olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast 40-50 minutes until tender.

Cool, peel and slice the beets.

Add baby greens, beet slices, oranges and red onion to the bowl. Whisk together the salad dressing and pour over the salad.

Oranges are also a wonderful for breakfast in a winter fruit salad.