Unbeetable Borscht!

borsht

This was one of my favorite dishes that my mom made when I was a kid. We used to eat it with blintzes  on the side. This is not traditional Russian hot borscht which has meat, cabbage and potatoes, but cold simple beet borscht, served back in the day with sour cream, Meyer lemon juice and a spoonful of sugar.

I roasted the beets before boiling them, for a deeper flavor. I’ve added the beet greens for more body and nutrients, as well as a bit of salt, dill and lemon zest for flavor. Since I’m watching my waistline, I added nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Not quite the same, but not bad either.

Ingredients:

beets with lemon

2 3/4 cups mild vegetable broth (see below)

1 bunch of 2 large beets, leaves included

1 Meyer lemon (a regular lemon will do if you can’t find a Meyer)

A few shakes, dill weed, salt, sugar, to taste

Trim “tails” and stems from beets. Scrub beets well. Line a covered container with foil (to prevent baked-on beet juice), then place beets in with ¼ cup of water, cover and roast at 400 for 40 minutes.

While beets are roasting, make vegetable broth. (You can do both a day ahead of time.)

trimmed leeks

3 1/2 cups water

1 large leek, dark green parts trimmed

2 large stalks celery. chopped

1 parsnip or 1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

1 sprig parsely

1/2 tsp dried thyme, or several springs fresh thyme

1/4 tsp dried dill weed, or several springs fresh dill

Several grinds black pepper

3/4 tsp balsamic vinegar to taste

Salt to taste

Directions:

veg broth with leeks celery parsnip garlic thyme and dill

Bring water to boil in medium pot. Trim outer dark leaves from leeks. Slice lengthwise into quarters, then chop crosswise and rinse thoroughly several times in a salad spinner

Rinse and chop celery and peel and chop parsnip or carrot. Thinly slice shallot and garlic clove. Add all vegetables to boiling water with herbs. Simmer for 25 minutes. After it cools, strain through a sieve into a bowl, pushing on the vegetables with a large spoon.. You should have approximately 2 3/4 cups left.

washed beet greets

While broth is booking, rinse beet leaves thoroughly: first rinse, then soak in a salad spinner for about 10 minutes in warm water, then rinse several more times. Chop them finely.

grating beets

Remove beets from oven and let cool. Peel them under running water. The peel should come off easily, revealing the jewel-like beets. Grate them on the large part of a box grater. Unless you have a pair of thin gloves handy,  prepared for hot pink hands!

grated beets

Bring vegetable broth to a boil and add grated beets and greens. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Grate lemon zest (the yellow part) on a fine grater into the soup, and then squeeze in the lemon juice. Stir in vinegar, a few shakes of dill weed, ¼ tsp salt to taste and 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp sugar to taste. Let borscht cool, then refrigerate. You can also serve it room temperature.

Serve with more lemon juice and sour cream. (or substitute plain Greek yogurt for a low-fat alternative.)

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Spanakopita and Tiropetes with phyllo or puff pastry

These Greek spinach and cheese pies have a complex taste: sharp bite of feta, green spinach, explosion of herbs: mint, dill, oregano, basil, garlic, and green onion, wrapped in a crispy filo dough or buttery puff pastry. My recipe was inspired by my Greek-American friend Margret’s delicious version.

You can make these traditionally with flaky phyllo (filo) dough. I use olive oil spray on the phyllo instead of spreading oil or butter with a pastry brush, to cut down on the fat. I also make tiropetes, which are phyllo filled with feta and ricotta cheese. They are great for breakfast.

On the other end of the calorie range, I recently tried these at a Greek restaurant made from puff pastry. They were rich and delicious! So I made them at home. It’s much less fuss than phyllo, although it has quite a few more fat and calories from the buttery pastry.

Makes 3 logs (about 18 triangles) of phyllo wrapped spanakopita or 8 triangles of puff pastry spanakopita

3/4  package defrosted phyllo dough OR 1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry (defrost for only 10 minutes at room temperature)

Olive oil spray for phyllo dough

Spinach filling: You can make this a day ahead of time.

2 heads fresh spinach, well washed, stems removed and chopped (use a food processor to chop it) OR 1 lb bag of frozen chopped spinach – about 3 cups.

1 tsp olive oil

2 scallions

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup pine nuts

1 Tb finely chopped mint leaves OR 1 tsp dried mint

½ Tb finely chopped fresh dill weed OR ½ tsp dried dill weed

1 Tb finely chopped fresh oregano leaves OR 1 tsp dried oregano

1 Tb finely chopped fresh basil OR 1 tsp dried basil OR 1 cube frozen basil

Several grinds pepper (about ¼ tsp)

1 egg for filling. Another egg if using puff pastry.

6 oz (about 1 cup) crumbled feta cheese

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375’ for filo, or 400’ for puff pastry

Microwave frozen or fresh spinach in a covered casserole bowl about 2 minutes (longer for frozen spinach) until soft. Drain in fine mesh sieve over a bowl.

I place a bowl with a few cans in it on top of the sieve while preparing the other ingredients. Afterward, press on the spinach with a tablespoon for several minutes to squeeze out the liquid. You should have 1 1/2  cups drained spinach.

While spinach is draining, finely mince white and green parts of scallions, garlic, and mint leaves and other fresh herbs, salt and pepper Sauté onion, garlic and pine nuts in olive oil in a heavy skillet. After a couple of minutes, stir in the herbs and heat for another minute.

Finish squeezing the last liquid from the spinach and discard the liquid. Stir the spinach into the onion and herbs.

Beat the first egg and add feta and Parmesan cheeses. Stir in the spinach mixture until well blended.

Tiropetes

1 cup feta cheese

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 egg, beaten

2 Tb minced fresh parsley

Mix ingredients together. Spread on puff pastry or phyllo dough as below.

Assembling Puff Pastry (I used Trader Joe’s), cut both sheets in two. Beat the second egg. Using a pastry brush, paint the egg on each piece. Spoon filling o to fill exactly half the pastry, leaving about 1/2 inch border of dough on the edges. Fold the pastry over the filling, then seal the edges with the back of a teaspoon.

Place on a cookie sheet that you have sprayed with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes at 400’ Let cool, then cut in half diagonally, to make triangles.

Phyllo Dough directions:

For phyllo dough pastries: spread one sheet of defrosted dough on a large wooden board or cutting board. Spray olive oil on top. Spread another sheet on top of it and spray and repeat for a 3rd sheet. Spread a 2 inch line of spinach or cheese filling about 3 inches from the edge of the shorter side of the rectangle. Leave a one inch space between the filling and the sides of the phyllo.

Roll the dough up over the filling, then tuck in the sides, and continue rolling until the end. Spray a little of the oil on the edge to seal it. Place the roll seam side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Spray a little oil on top of the roll.

Bake at 375’ for 40 minutes until browned.

Let cool, then slice the logs diagonally in each direction into triangle shapes.

Barbecued Salmon with Fresh Herbs

My friend Karen and I invented this easy recipe on the Fourth of the July. We grilled it in the park on a charcoal grill. The second time I made it on a gas grill at home. Barbecue the salmon about 3 inches above the coals after they  have turned white, or on medium high for gas.

Serves 3  (1/3 pound per person)

1  pound  salmon fillet or steak

2 lemons: 1 sliced and 1 quartered

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

salt to taste

1 sprig rosemary

3 sprigs dill weed

Place salmon on a sheet of aluminum foil, skin side down.

Sprinkle with olive oil, garlic and salt.

Tear up rosemary and dill sprigs and place on top.

Place lemon slices on top.

Squeeze two quarters of the second lemon on the fish. Wrap salmon tightly in foil, place another piece of foil on top, then wrap again.

Heat up grill on high, then put on medium high before placing salmon on. Cook salmon fillet 3-5 minutes on each side. After 6-10 minutes of cooking, check that it is firm and flaky. For salmon steak, cook 6 minutes on each side, 12 minutes total.

Unwrap salmon on plate, remove lemon slices.  Squeeze last two quarters of  lemon on salmon.

Poached Salmon with yogurt dill and lemon sauce

My husband once took my son on a fishing trip and caught a salmon bigger than my 6-year-old daughter! What were we going to do with all that fish? We called all our friends to come over and gave each of them a chunk of salmon to take home!

Here’s an elegant, delicious and easy salmon fillet recipe that uses dill and lemon mixed in nonfat Greek yogurt as a sauce.

salmon topped with lemon and yogurt dill sauce
Ingredients:
dill plant
1 lb fillet of salmon to feed 3 people. A tail piece will not have bones.
1 shallot, peeled and thickly sliced
1 scallion, sliced diagonally into 2″ pieces (both white and green parts)
1/2  cup chicken broth

½ cup dry white wine such as Chardonnay

1 lemon (Meyer lemon is best.)

½ cup plain nonfat yogurt  or Greek yogurt

Several sprigs of dill

Cut a lemon in half.  Cut several slices from the middle and set aside for garnish. Use the rest for squeezing juice.

broth with scallions and shallots

Boil broth in frying pan with shallots and scallions. Add 1 Tb lemon juice, wine and place a sprig of dill in the broth and bring to a boil again.

salmon cooking in broth with lid

Salt the salmon and place in the boiling broth skin side down. Cover pan and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat. Turn off heat and let sit for another minute.

yogurt sauce ingredients

While salmon is cooking, mince 1 tsp. dill and 2 Tb cucumber. Mix in yogurt with 2 tsp of lemon juice and salt to taste.

salmon with yogurt dill sauce

Serve salmon with lemon slices and yogurt sauce.