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.)

Did you ever seen a (Mango) Lassi?

This thick and sweet Indian smoothie is a refreshing treat on a hot summer’s day. It’s low in fat and sugar. The yogurt and lime juice give it a nice tang. I sprinkle a little Tajín, (chili powder with dried lime and salt), on top for zing and added complexity. (I buy Tajín at Mexican grocery stores). For a special treat, take a bite of dark chocolate and hold it in your mouth while sipping the lassi.

Right now there are ripe mangoes at a good price at the corner markets and produce stores. When I can’t find them I use frozen mangoes from Trader Joe’s. You can substitute sugar for the agave if you prefer.

I prefer the lassi made with dairy products, but since I’m lactose intolerant, I have to use lactose-free milk. I couldn’t find that at work the other day, so made it from coconut water and coconut milk. It was pretty good. Here are both recipes:

Use 2 ripe, soft (but not mushy) mangoes. Refrigerate ingredients before using, or add ice to cool down the drink.

Dairy Lassi:
2 cups fresh or frozen mango (2 medium or one large mango)
¼ banana (¼ cup)
½ cup 1 % milk
½ cup nonfat plain Greek or Mediterranean yogurt (I buy Karoun brand at Middle Eastern markets)
½ tsp lime juice
2 tsp agave nectar

 Combine ingredients in blender. Pulse until fruit breaks up, and then liquefy Lassi. If using fresh mango, add some ice until desired coldness is reached. If it is too thick, add more milk. Sprinkle a bit of Tajín on top.

Because the coconut water I buy has sugar in it, I don’t add any more sugar to this lassi. Drink the rest of the can for a refreshing treat!

Coconut Mango Lassi (vegan)

2 cups fresh or frozen mango (2 medium or one large mango)
¼ banana (¼ cup)
½ cup coconut water (I use canned coconut water with added pulp)
½ cup coconut milk (use low-fat for fewer calories)
½ tsp lime juice

 Combine ingredients in blender. Pulse until fruit breaks up, and then liquefy lassi. If using fresh mango, add some ice until it reaches desired coldness. If it is too thick, add more coconut water. Sprinkle a bit of Tajín on top.

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.

No Mayo Tarragon Chicken Salad with Yogurt

This chicken salad sings with flavor from anise-like fresh tarragon and fennel, balanced by thyme, lemon, and a bit of scallion.

I do NOT like mayonnaise,  plus it is loaded with calories (10 grams of fat in one tablespoon!), so I usually avoid chicken salads in delis and restaurants.  I use Mediterranean-style nonfat plain yogurt such as Karoun, which I find in Middle Eastern or South Asian markets. It is very thick like Greek yogurt, and has only 70 calories in a half-cup.

You can make the peas ahead of time. I suppose you could cook  frozen peas, but they won’t have the same crunch as parboiled fresh ones.

You can use a mix of light and dark meat, or just white meat, depending on what you want or have on hand. For the first batch I made, I used leftover roast chicken.

For the next batch, I poached boneless chicken breasts.  I salted them and browned them in olive oil. I then poured boiling water over it, and added a splash of white wine and a squeeze of lemon, several sprigs of tarragon and thyme and a spoonful of salt, and covered the pan, and boiled it for 10 minutes. I then turned off the flame and let it sit for  10 minutes. You can make the chicken ahead of time.

When making a large quantity for a crowd, I shredded the chicken by pulsing in the food processor. Then I transferred it to a large bowl to stir in the yogurt and other ingredients.

This recipe is pretty versatile for substituting vegetables. I added 2 Tb chopped pecans since my  South Texan husband loves pecans in almost anything.

1 cup shelled English peas

1 cup shredded cold chicken.

1 cup diced celery and/or jicama

2 Persian cucumbers, chopped.  (If you can’t find those, use 3/4 cup regular cucumbers.)

1/4  cup diced fennel root

½ cup plain nonfat Mediterranean or Greek yogurt

1 tsp minced fresh tarragon

½ tsp minced fresh thyme

1 tsp. minced shallot or red onion

1 Tb. minced green onion (scallion) about 1 stalk.

¼ salt or to taste

3 grinds pepper

1 Tb lemon juice (juice of 1 small lemon or ½ large lemon) preferably Meyer lemon

Shell about 1 pound English peas to make 1 cup, then parboil them for 2 minutes. Immediately cool them in ice water. I pour them through a strainer, then place the strainer in a bowl of ice water.

cooling peas in ice water

Dice chicken, cucumber and jicama, mix with cooled peas, and yogurt. Mince tarragon, thyme, shallot and green onion, add to chicken. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice. Mix well.

I bought some pita bread when I picked up the yogurt, so I tucked my chicken salad into  it.