Autumn has fully fallen in the Hudson Valley. The trees are aflame. Food-wise, this is my favorite time of year. It’s all about soups and stews…long, slow cooking and rich, deep flavors.

leavesLately, I have been feeling a bit drained by the dryness and flurry of the late summer and the getting-back-to-business-ness of the early fall. The other night I was desperately in need of some deep nourishment, the kind that goes beyond just filling my belly and enters my blood and bones. This kind of deep nourishment helps to bolster up your foundation, your embodied inheritance from your family line.

I came home from the farm stand with an abundance of ruby-red gems in my bag. Paired with the stew beef in my refrigerator, I knew I had a meal worthy of offering to my Eastern European ancestors. I set to work remembering the recipe for a rich, brilliantly red beef and beet borscht. This recipe can also be made vegetarian. Just skip the beef and replace the meat stock with veggie broth.

This recipe will soothe vata and pitta. With less or no meat, it’s also a great meal for kapha dosha predominant folks this time of year. For my lady-friends, this meal will build you up post-menses and keep you happy when you’re in the baby-making way.

Beets, with their heart-shaped form, have shown to help lower blood pressure. In Chinese medicine they are said to nourish and tonify the blood, tonify the heart, calm the spirit, lubricate the intestines and cleanse the liver.

Beef grounds us deeply and also tonifies and nourishes the blood.

Cabbage supports spleen, kidney and intestinal function and tonifies the blood.

Paprika is anti-inflammatory, pain-reducing and anti-oxidant. It is also full of nutrients (if it hasn’t been dried too quickly at too high heat)—especially considering its relative volume. One tablespoon of paprika can have about 9% of your daily iron requirements! It also has lots of vitamin C and good amounts of vitamins A and E.

bone brothBone broth…well, I could write a whole post about that. Oh, wait I have 😉. Suffice it to say here, that it deeply nourishes your nervous system in a way that few other things can.

The variations can be endless, it’s such a forgiving stew. Try adding other root vegetables or a different meat (goat, venison, chicken, duck…). Dill can also replace the thyme.

Beet Borscht

Ingredients:

4-5 medium Beets

Ghee, coconut, sunflower or olive oil (or a combo)

1 – 1 ½ lb. Stew beef (optional)

2-3 Shallots chopped finely

2 medium Carrots chopped finely

½ fresh Fennel bulb or 2 Celery stalks chopped finely

½ tsp. Salt or Herbamare

7-8 c. Broth (chicken, beef or veggie)

1 bay leaf

1 ½ – 2 c. shredded Red Cabbage

Salt and Pepper to taste

½ tsp. dried Thyme (or 1 tsp. fresh)

1 tsp. Paprika (smoked, if possible)

2 tbsp. Red wine vinegar

Optional step to bring out the deeper flavors of the beets:

Preheat the oven to 400F. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet to roast in the oven for about 1 hr.

This recipe could be made vegetarian, but if you are using meat:

While the beets are roasting, dry the stew beef well and then lightly salt and pepper the pieces. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a heavy-bottomed pot (or Dutch Oven) and brown the meat on all sides. Remove the meat from the pan and reserve it on a plate with a paper towel.

beetspanAdd diced shallot, carrots and fennel (or celery) to the oil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté the vegetables until the shallots become translucent (about 10-15 minutes). If you are not roasting the beets, chop them into chunks and add them now, tossing a bit to cover with oil.

Return the meat to the pan and add broth and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for about 30-45 minutes.

Add the shredded red cabbage, and simmer, partially covered, for 15-20 minutes and then add paprika and thyme. Salt and pepper to taste (go light on the salt at this point…some liquid will still cook off).

Continue to simmer until veggies and meat are tender, about another 20-30 minutes.

If you roasted the beets:

Remove the beets from the oven and peel off the skins (they will peel very easily at this point). Chop the beets into smallish cubes—thinking about what size you would like to have on your spoon. Add to soup and simmer for another 10 minutes or so to infuse the flavor into the stock.

Add red wine vinegar to finish and serve hot.

Tastes lovely topped with sour cream or crème fraiche. The other night I served it over spaghetti squash. Yum! Tell me what other variations can you think of in the comments below!

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