Are you looking for a recipe idea that turns a hearty beef dish into a hearty vegetarian dish?

Beets may not be everybody’s favorite vegetable, but this recipe may just reconcile all but the most recalcitrant beet-hater with this gorgeous superfood.

Beets are the only food that contains betalains, plant nutrients with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying properties. In lab studies on human tumor cells, betanin (a type of betalain) pigments from beets have been found to reduce tumor cell growth through a number of mechanisms, including inhibition of inflammatory enzymes.

An estimated 10-15% of all U.S. adults experience “beeturia” (a reddening of the urine) after eating beets (as shown in a recent episode of my favorite TV comedy show, Portlandia). While this is not considered harmful, it may indicate problems with iron metabolism: Individuals with iron deficiency, iron excess, or specific problems with iron metabolism are more likely to experience beeturia than people with healthy iron metabolism. So if you experience beeturia and have any reason to suspect iron-related problems, ask your doctor to check your iron status.

Because this stew takes several hours to cook (most of this time is hands-off), why not double quantities so you can eat half of it fresh and freeze the rest for another day?

Traditional Russian borscht includes beef, but vegetarians can adapt this recipe by leaving out the meat, using vegetable stock and adding a poached or hard-cooked chopped egg at the end. The vegetarian version tastes great served cold in the summer.

Serves 8.

1-2 tbsp olive oil
1.1 lb/500g pastured beef shank slices (bone-in) or lean stewing beef cut into 1-inch/2-cm cubes
1 large red onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely grated (no need to peel these)
1 celery stick, finely diced
1½ quarts/1½ liters home-made, de-fatted beef stock or water
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried dill
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 lb/450g cooked beets, shredded on a box grater
1 lb/450g red cabbage, finely sliced (use a mandolin if you have one)
2 waxy potatoes, peeled and finely cubed
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt, freshly ground black pepper
4 sweet-and-sour dill pickles, finely diced
1 cup/250g fat-free Greek yogurt
8 sprigs of fresh dill (one per plate)

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, sauté the beef in the olive oil until browned all around. Transfer to a plate.

In the fat remaining in the pot (add another tablespoon of oil if necessary), cook onion, garlic, carrots and celery for 6-8 minutes, stirring. Add stock or water (whichever using), tomato paste, bay leaves, oregano, dill and vinegar and bring to a boil. Return the meat to the pot, stir to combine and cover. Simmer on low heat for around two hours, until the beef is tender. (A slow cooker yields the tastiest outcome; cook on “low” for 8 hours.)

Once the meat is tender add grated beets, shredded cabbage and diced potatoes and stir to combine. Bring back to the boil and simmer, covered, for another ½ hour. (If using beef shanks, take the meat out of the pot, allow to cool for 10 minutes and cut into small pieces before returning it to the pot along with the beets and cabbage; mince the bone marrow and add it to the stew – it provides delicious flavor and valuable nutrients.)

Once the cabbage is soft, season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Serve in individual soup bowls, topped with a blob of Greek yogurt, a sprig of fresh dill and offer diners chopped dill pickle to scatter over their soup, if desired.

Learn more about me, my guidelines to anti-cancer cooking, and my heavily plant-based book based on the Mediterranean Diet Zest for Life with over 150 recipes.


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