Cold Beet Soup Garnished with Sliced Cucumber

Why Beets Make the Most Beautiful Cold Soup

Beets

Beets get a bad rap. Healthy and sweet, roasted beets are delicious on their own, in a salad or a refreshing soup.

Cold Beet Soup Garnished with Sliced Cucumber

Cold Beet Soup

Borsht

Growing up, I associated them with borsht. Made by Manischewitz, a leading producer of kosher foods, the tall colorful jar in the refrigerator didn’t look like my vision of soup. My grandmother, a Russian immigrant, loved it, and had it for lunch with a boiled potato. Since it wasn’t served for dinner, I happily gave this strange feast a wide berth. I never even tried it.

Uncooked Beets

Raw Beets

Pickled

Pickled beets occasionally accompanied dinner. However, the tangy flavor of pickled vegetables did not fit with my childhood preference for less piquant flavors.

Roasting

I attribute my epiphany to a beautiful plate of beet ravioli. The fresh roasted filling contained an incomparable sweetness, erasing all previous memories. Although I now know that roasting any vegetable increases its sweetness, the transformation it brings about in the beet is truly remarkable.

Beets Finished Roasting

Roasted Beets

Beets Nutrition

Beets are a nutritional powerhouse. The benefits include anti-inflammatory properties and detoxification support. They are also rich in antioxidants.

Beet Recipes

My go to recipe for the vegetable was roasted beet salad until I discovered cold beet soup. Sweet, tangy and refreshing, it’s perfect for a hot day. Saltibarsciai  is a  specialty of Lithuania. It’s garnished with a combination of cucumber, dill, scallions or hard boiled eggs and often served with a side of boiled potatoes. Attempting to modernize my grandmother’s favorite lunch, I updated the recipe to take full advantage of the fresh roasted flavor. Unlike traditional recipes, my recipe begins with roasting beets rather than boiling. I want to extract every ounce of sweet flavor into the dish.

Beets Coated in Olive Oil

Beets Prepared for Roasting

Lunch

For other lunch ideas try my recipes for authentic poke, twice – baked potatoes or kale salad.

Recipe

Cold Beet Soup

4-6 Servings

4 medium beets, scrubbed

Olive oil

1/4 heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream

2 cups kefir

11/2 teaspoons lemon juice

Salt

Pepper

Sliced cucumber

 

Preheat oven to 400F. Place cleaned beets on a foil lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 45 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Cool until they are not hot to the touch. Peel off skins. They should come off easily. If  some skin remains take it off with a peeler. Grate peeled beets.

Roasted and Grated Beets

Grated Beets

Fold the whipped cream into the sour cream. Fold in the kefir. Mix with grated beets and puree. Taste. Add lemon juice if necessary to balance the sweetness. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with sliced cucumber.

Whipped Cream, Sour Cream and Kefir for Cold Beet Soup

Whipped Cream, Sour Cream and Kefir

For a heartier meal add sliced radish, scallions, and hard boiled eggs Serve with a side of boiled potatoes with parsley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chopped Tomatoes
Video

How This Easy Gazpacho Recipe Can Keep You Cool

Authentic Gazpacho

I love gazpacho. Chopped vegetables in cold juice are so restorative on a hot day. Nevertheless, I knew my go to recipe was far from authentic. A variation on Ina Garten’sfrom The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, it has chopped vegetables rather than pureed. Most Spanish recipes for gazpacho feature smooth soups, with chunky vegetables and croutons used as a garnish. With this year’s tomato season underway I could rectify my departure from tradition. I would find a new recipe.

Chopped Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Spanish Chefs

To learn the history of Spanish food I read Claudia Roden’s The Food of Spain. I then moved on to the other end of the spectrum with Omar Alibhoy’s simple yet modern interpretations of classic cuisine from Tapas Revolution. Surprisingly, traditional recipes seemed less complicated. It’s much simpler to puree everything in a blender than to keep each individual ingredient crunchy.

Chopped Red Pepper

Red Pepper

Spices

Spain fell under Islamic rule in the 700’s. In 929 Abd-Al-Rahman III declared himself caliph of a state independent of Bagdad, Cordoba. During this time Spain’s culture flourished, including the areas of agriculture and gastronomy. Trade in spices and aromatics was heavy throughout the Mediterranean, the Islamic world, the Far East and India.  Spanish cooking techniques still show the influences of the many Jewish and Muslim traders. I followed Omar Alihboy’s suggestion to add cumin to my gazpacho. Cumin was already a feature of Spanish recipes when Ferdinand and Isabella married in 1469.

Raw Garlic

Garlic

Agriculture

Gazpacho comes from Seville, the province in Spain where tomatoes originate. It was the food of agricultural laborers working in vegetable gardens. They would bring olive oil, salt and vinegar to the fields with their mortar and pestle. The fresh vegetables could then be pounded and dressed for the day’s meal. Until the mid-twentieth century 80% of Spain’s population was employed in agriculture.

 Gazpacho

Smooth Gazpacho

New Recipe

I love that this gazpacho can be served as a traditional cold soup with garnishes, or as a shooter with brunch. I can waited to try it with bagels and lox. For other summer food ideas try my Summer Kale SaladGrilled Sweet Potatoes, or Southwestern Salad.

Smooth Gazpacho with Vegetable Garnish

Smooth Gazpacho Garnished with Vegetables

Smooth Gazpacho

Serves 8

3 slices white bread

4 pounds tomatoes, stem and had white area removed

3 red pepper seeds removed and quartered

2 cloves garlic, root removed

3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

8 Tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cumin

salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes

Dice 1/2 cup each of red pepper and cucumber. Slice 4 scallions

 

Toast the bread, remove the crusts. Cube the toast.

 

Add all the ingredients to the blender and puree until smooth. Serve as a shooter in a glass or garnished with red pepper, cucumber and scallion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Need These Simple Healthy Breakfast Ideas for a Fun Summer

On hot days I like a cold breakfast. I also want a breakfast recipe that is simple, healthy and packed with protein.

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Banana Coconut Breakfast Jar

Growing bored of toast, I started noticing enticing overnight oat jars. Stirred together than put in the refrigerator, they couldn’t be easier. I added chia seeds to turn the mixture into a smooth pudding and increase the nutritional value. I also increased the health benefits by adding ground flax seeds.

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Banana Coconut Breakfast Jar with Almond Butter

I think my favorite breakfast jar topping is peanut butter and blueberries. A close second was a banana coconut variation with almond butter. There are endless combinations. Try it with your favorite cereal, yogurt or oatmeal topping. Post your favorites!

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Peanut Butter and Blueberry Breakfast Jar

For other healthy breakfast recipes try my Peanut Butter and Vanilla Smoothie, Yogurt Parfait or Tropical Smoothie Bowl.

Peanut Butter Blueberry Breakfast Jar

¼ cup rolled oats

¼ milk of your choice

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 teaspoon maple syrup

Blueberries

Stir together rolled oats, milk, chia seeds, flax seeds nut butter and maple syrup and refrigerate overnight. In the morning fill the remaining space in the jar with blueberries and serve.

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Blueberries

Banana Coconut Breakfast Jar

¼ cup rolled oats

¼ milk of your choice

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds

1 tablespoon almond butter

1 teaspoon maple syrup

Sliced banana

Unsweetened shredded coconut

Stir together rolled oats, milk, chia seeds, flax seeds nut butter and maple syrup and refrigerate overnight. In the morning fill the remaining space in the jar with sliced banana, shredded coconut and serve.

 

Make Sensational Easy Summer Recipes with Spark Syrup

Warm days make me crave summer salads. Maybe I just want to get out to the patio, but heavy complicated foods lose their appeal.

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Southwestern Salad

While I have many favorite salad recipes, I wanted something new. I decided my inspiration would be a homemade salad dressing made with Spark Syrup’s Hibiscus Lime Ginger Syrup.

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Hibiscus, Ginger Lime Spark Syrup

The refreshing sweet and sour flavors of hibiscus, lime and ginger made me think of Mexican aqua frescas, so I paired it with a chopped southwestern salad. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are a healthy simple summer dinner.

 

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Corn Cut From the Cob

Spark Syrup is a locally made product that is a delicious addition to sparkling wine or cocktails. For ideas just follow the recipes on the bottle. In the Chicago area it can be found at Pagoda Red, Stumble and Relish, Vinic Wine and D&D Finer Foods. Throughout the month of June it will be available at the Evanston_made pop-up at the Evanston Art Center. It can also be purchased online at https://www.facebook.com/sparksyrup. This is their salad dressing recipe.

Hibiscus Vinaigrette

3 Tablespoons Spark Syrup

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

2/3 cup olive oil

Mix together the syrup, vinegar, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil until it emulsifies.

Chopped Southwestern Salad

Serves 2

 2 chicken breasts

Sprinkling of cumin

Salt

Pepper

6 handfuls combined romaine lettuce and baby spinach

1 cup chopped red pepper

1 cup peeled and chopped jicama

2 ears of corn, cooked and kernels removed from the cob

1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and dried

Wash, dry and season the chicken breasts. Grill or broil the chicken breasts on high 7 minutes then turn and cook another 5. Turn the broiler to low or put on indirect heat another 5-10 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160F. Let rest 5 minutes then chop.

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Peeled and Cubed Jicama

Layer the greens in a large bowl. Layer the salad ingredients in sections on top. Drizzle with dressing and toss.

How to Create Your Favorite Summer Cocktail

Pimm’s Cup may be the drink of Wimbledon, but spring strawberries always inspire me to rush the season. I became a fan of the drink while a student in Ann Arbor, MI where it was served at The Old Town Tavern. Although it’s still there, the last of the “townie” bars on the city’s Old West Side, it’s no longer on the menu. Light and refreshing, it still makes me think of summer.

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Spring Strawberries

What separates the Old Town Pimm’s Cup, is the addition of tonic water. For years I thought the Old Town cocktail was the original, and searched in vain to find it. I now realize that as a liqueur, Pimm’s can be mixed with anything, yet my preference remains for this bittersweet recipe. The Old Town did not use strawberries, but I like the additional fragrance and complexity.

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Old Town Pimm’s Cup

 

Since Wimbledon is a daytime event the traditional Pimm’s Cup is low in alcohol. To make a stronger cocktail, I add gin, which compliments its British profile.

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Pimm’s No.1

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Strawberries

When I discovered that a popular Pimm’s cocktail featured ginger ale I had to try it with my hometown favorite, Vernors. Not as strongly flavored as ginger beer, it nevertheless has a balanced, spicy effervescence.

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Detroit Pimm’s Cup

Old Town Pimm’s Cup

Serves 1

2 oz. Pimm’s No. 1

6 oz. tonic water

Sliced strawberries

Slices of lemon

Slices of orange

Add all the ingredients to a tall glass with ice. Stir and serve.

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Sliced Fruit for a Pimm’s Cup

Pimm’s Gin & Tonic

Serves 1

2 oz. Pimm’s Cup

1 oz. gin

4 oz. tonic water

Sliced strawberries

Slices of lemon

Slices of orange

Add all the ingredients to a tall glass with ice. Stir and serve.

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Tonic Water

Detroit Pimm’s Cup

Serves 1

2 oz. Pimm’s No. 1

6 oz. Vernors’ ginger ale

Sliced strawberries

Slices of lemon

Slices of orange

Add all the ingredients to a tall glass with ice. Stir and serve.

 

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Vernors Ginger Ale

How Twice-Baked Potatoes Can Make Entertaining Easy

Potatoes are underrated. Low calorie and high in fiber, their association with unhealthy preparations and toppings has made them a guilty pleasure. This needn’t be the case.

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Twice – Baked Potato

The subtle flavor of the potato provides a blank canvas that requires few additions. Twice – baked potatoes, my favorite, are a delicious example of how few ingredients are necessary to elevate a potato into something special.

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Butter

Twice – baked potatoes are my entertaining staple. They are pretty when baked, yet so easy. Most importantly they can be prepared ahead, and warmed up when its time to serve. No holiday would be the same without them. They also perfect for casual summertime entertaining, just put  them on the grill as a side for steaks.

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Prepped Twice Baked Potatoes

Whenever I make them, I try to save one for lunch. Made with skim milk, minimal butter and cheddar cheese, it’s a healthy vegetarian entrée.

This is my mother’s recipe. Her directions for consistency are very specific.

Twice – Baked Potatoes

Serves 6-8

 

4 Idaho potatoes

1 cup fat free milk

11/2 tablespoons butter

½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Salt

Paprika

Bake potatoes at 425F for 1 hour. Test potatoes with a fork or toothpick to make sure they have softened. Make a slit on the sides of the potato to release the steam. Let cool for 20-30 minutes.

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Baked Potato Sliced in Half

Cut the potatoes in half, cutting around the circumference of the potato. Scoop out the flesh out of each side, being careful not to rip the skin.

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Empty Potato Skins

Add the potato flesh to a saucepan with the butter. Warm the milk in a microwave for two minutes. Add half the milk to the saucepan. Turn the heat on low and mash the mixture with a potato masher. Retain small chucks of potatoes. Do not mash into a puree. Mix in the cheese. Do not add extra cheese; it will turn the potatoes into glue. Add more milk as needed. The proper consistency is of a flavorful baked potato. Salt to taste. Fill the potato skins with the potato mixture. Sprinkle the potatoes generously with paprika. Bake immediately or refrigerate overnight.

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Warmed Milk

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Baked Potato Flesh

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Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Bake at 350F on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes (or 20 minutes at 400F) until the tops have browned and warmed through, either in the oven or on indirect heat on a grill.Follow my blog with Bloglovin

How to Make Perfect Iced Tea

I live in Chicago. People here don’t pretend that a warm sunny day isn’t something special. Everyone is outside.

 

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Spring in Chicago

Nice days make me want something refreshing, and my favorite choice is iced tea. I’ve been drinking iced tea all my life. Looking back on it, I realize it’s odd that a child would be allowed this beverage at every meal. Nevertheless, I became a connoisseur of the drink.

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Iced Tea

While growing up in a Detroit suburb, I was mostly taken care of by my elderly grandmother, Bubbe. She had immigrated from tsarist Russia as a teenager, and still continued the tea traditions of her youth. Every afternoon at 4:00pm she made a fresh pitcher of iced tea for dinner. This is her recipe.

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4 Tea Bags Black Tea

My parents preferred a cranberry flavored tea. Personally I’m addicted to Arnold Palmers. Here’s how to make these variations.

Iced Tea

Serves 12

6 cups water

4 tea bags of black tea

¼ cup sugar

Lemon

Ice

Microwave 6 cups of water for 8 minutes. Immerse the tea bags in the boiling water. Swirl the tea bags so all the water is infused. Steep 5 minutes. Remove the teabags. Add the sugar. Mix until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in 6 cups of ice. Refrigerate. Squeeze a generous slice of lemon into each glass before serving over ice.

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Generous Slice of Lemon

Cranberry Iced Tea

Using the above recipe each glass should have ¼ cranberry juice and ¾ iced tea.

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Cranberry Juice

Arnold Palmers

Fill each glass with 1/3 lemonade and 2/3 with iced tea.