Category Archives: vegetable recipes

Beets: try them, you’ll like them!

Beets — four+ ways to use them.

Having been raised in a somewhat ethnic family (the “old country,” in this case, being Russia/Poland), I tend to be more open to trying– and usually liking–foods that most Americans would not even consider touching. Heart, liver, kidneys, trotters, blood puddings: my relatives had a real “waste no part of the animal mentality.” Nose to tail consumption. As I’ve always been slender and healthy, I figure I must be doing something right. I’ve also never met a vegetable I didn’t like. I’ll never starve to death, that’s for sure!

beets for kvass

All you need are beets, salt and clean H2O to make Kvas.

One vegetable that I enjoy, yet a lot of people will turn their noses up to, is the humble beet. Beets are typically a deep, rich ruby red in color, although you can also find orange and two-tone ones (alternating layers of red and white). Vegetables that have deep colors tend to be supersaturated with nutrients, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.

I grow beets in the garden and have come to love the beet greens (tops) as well. Some people say that beets taste like dirt (maybe that’s why I like them, lol), but the tops, when sautéed, taste similar to spinach. Harvesting just a few leaves at a time from several plants throughout the summer and early fall will cause replacement leaves grow, thereby creating a sustainable situation. The leaves can also be added to salads, raw and chopped, therefore retaining their nutritional value.

beet kvas

Kvas: day 1 and ready to ferment.

Some of my favorite ways to use the beet roots is pickling (these can also be canned), roasted and cut into pieces for salads, grated raw into salads, fermented pickling, beet kvas and a cold or hot soup called borscht. Beets also have a natural earthy sweetness to them that pairs beautifully with salty/sour pickling and fermentation.

Pickled Beets
This makes a great cold side dish, especially with summer barbecues or added to a chopped salad. Food Network has a nice Alton Brown pickled beet recipe that calls for roasting the beets first, and then letting them soak in a seasoned brine mixture for up to 7 days before serving. I’ve tried this one and it’s a winner!

beet kvas

Ten days later…

Old Fashioned Fermented Pickled Beets
I’ve tried the recipe in Nourishing Traditions, which calls for whey and it’s just “okay.” I prefer not using whey for fermentation, the results just don’t taste the same as natural fermentation. Here’s a good fermented beets recipe that calls for simply beets, salt and water. Personally, I would also add onions. And fermentation = probiotics!

Borscht
I’ve never actually made this soup, but I have had it a few times in both Russian and Jewish restaurants. In those instances the cold soup was puréed, served with a dollop of sour cream, and I couldn’t identify what was in it other than beets. Served in this way, the soup makes a nice appetizer (as opposed to a meal, which calls for a heartier recipe).

My search on the internet brought up a variety of recipes that include all sorts of ingredients, some with meat, some without. This Borscht recipe from Cooks.com has the best rating and comments from cooks. I am tempted to take the advice in one comment about using tomato paste, fried in butter, rather than canned tomatoes. Note: Try not to use canned anything, unless you have no other option! Fresh is best!

beet kvas

After 10+ days the Kvas is ready to drink. Yum!

Beet Kvas
This is a fermented, naturally carbonated beverage made from only three ingredients: beets, filtered water and salt. The first time I made and tasted this I just knew it was a tonic for the blood. There’s something about the combination of salty-sour-carbonation that I crave at times. And Kvas practically makes itself.

Update: A week in the fridge and the little kvas I have left has turned a brownish red. But it still smells and tastes good, so keep that in mind.

Beet Kvas - no whey!
Print Recipe
A carbonated salty-sour-yet-sweet beverage that can be considered a tonic, or cleansing... or just plain delicious! This will ferment just fine without the whey called for in other recipes.
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Beet Kvas - no whey!
Print Recipe
A carbonated salty-sour-yet-sweet beverage that can be considered a tonic, or cleansing... or just plain delicious! This will ferment just fine without the whey called for in other recipes.
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Ingredients
  • 3-4 beets a generous medium size
  • 1-1/2 quarts water filtered
  • 1 TB sea salt (or a little more if you like)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic Optional
Servings: quarts (roughly)
Instructions
  1. Wash beet roots to remove any dirt but don't overdo it, you don't want to remove all the good (lactobacillus) bacteria.
  2. Chop into, roughly, 1" chunks.
  3. Add beets to a half gallon jar.
  4. Add 1 TB sea salt.
  5. Add filtered water to within 1/2" below lip.
  6. Cover with lid and write the date on the jar with a Sharpie.
  7. Allow to ferment, out of direct sunlight, for 1-1/2 weeks or more.
  8. When done, this can be strained, or just serve right out of the jar, chunks and all. Enjoy!
Recipe Notes

Don't drink this if it smells or looks bad or has mold growing in or on it. Natural fermentation can sometimes go wrong, so be smart! My beets sometimes turn almost black, but there is nothing wrong with them and the kvas smells sweet and earthy. Delicious!

The Kvas could become syrupy towards the bottom of the jar. Just mix it back in before consuming.

Share this Recipe
 

A Glorious Feast: Garden Harvest Lasagna

Spoiler: A link to the best ever Vegetable Lasagna recipe can be found at the end of this post.

My teenage son became a vegetarian this winter, so I’ve been cooking more meatless dishes whenever possible, or altering my meat-containing recipes (such as soups and stews) so that I can add protein separately. For years I’ve seen recipes for zucchini lasagna and it never sounded very exciting to me, but I love vegetables and want to find new ways to use them in meals other than the usual sauteed or steamed side dishes.

Ricotta ingredients

Now, in early summer when our vegetables start maturing, I usually end up with one of this, one of that, an undersized other—not enough for a complete meal’s side dish.

A recipe for homemade ricotta cheese I found through Pinterest promised to make the best tasting ricotta in about 15 minutes. That caught my attention—and imagination. Thinking back on one of my favorite vegetable pasta dishes, Pasta Primavera, I came up with my own vegetable lasagna dish that totally knocked my socks off! Not only was it one of the best lasagnas I’ve ever had, but it was easy!

I already had most of the vegetables I needed. After a quick trip to Whole Foods I also had ricotta ingredients, pasta sauce, mozzarella and lasagna noodles. I decided to try Whole Foods’ 365 brand no-cook lasagna noodles. That saved me some time right off the bat—no cooking, rinsing and keeping the noodles unstuck for my recipe.

Try it, you’ll like it!

I also found a new 365 pasta sauce I’d not seen before—Sun Dried Tomato & Basil. That turned out to be a very fortuitous choice! I have to say I LOVE this sauce. It’s so good that it tastes great cold, right out of the jar. I think it would be a fantastic dip for pizza-dough breadsticks or as a quick and easy bruschetta. It has incredible flavor, thick sauce and lots of chunks of tomato. Belissimo!

I made a double recipe of ricotta and yes, it was so quick and easy that I don’t know why I haven’t tried that before. It’s extremely fresh tasting, sweet and delicious!

I julienned the vegetables, sauteed them in olive oil until they were only slightly softened and then set up my assembly line on the kitchen island: sauce jar, raw lasagna noodles, ricotta bowl, vegetables, shredded mozzarella. I used an 8×8 Pyrex baking dish. I layered my ingredients, baked at 350 for about 45 minutes and voila, pulled the bubbling beauty from the oven.

Yum!

The vegetables were perfectly al dente, the ricotta sweet and rich, the sauce an enticing combination of flavor and texture. The pasta was cooked perfectly! My guest even spontaneously commented on how delicious and satisfying this meal turned out to be. It was SO good that I had cold leftovers for breakfast the following two mornings.

And as for my son? I had actually made this dish for him. But between his night job at Noodles & Company and spare time spent with his girlfriend, he didn’t have a chance to even try it. One of life’s little ironies! My vegetable lasagna recipe can be found here.