Category Archives: beets

Three D Chocolate Cake Recipe


This one-of-a-kind chocolate cake is great for any or no occasion at all. We whisked this DDD (decadent, delicious, disappearing) cake last week-end as a part of a surprise Happy Birthday salute. Well, it was a DOUBLE surprise, both in taste and the secret major ingredient of it which nobody could guess: the BEETROOT. Really?  Abso-xx-lutely.  Hmmm, how can the chocolate cake be decadent and delicious if its major ingredient is beet? And yet, the sweet-savory taste of beets marries dark chocolate happily making this cake deep and unbelievably moist. I promise, your guests will be asking what is in that cake besides chocolate first thing.
This velvety rich, mildly dense, slightly fudgey and delicate-crumbled cake is both rustic and elegant and guarantees to make the most vivid sweet food memories.  Few decades ago using beets in chocolate cake might have been considered downright shocking, but with today’s baking taking a scientific direction it totally makes sense as a second major ingredient, providing healthy and colorful starch and fiber while still letting the chocolate shine through the cake’s earthiness.
Health and fashion-wise,  this Chocolate, Almond and Beetroot Cake (to be exact with its name) ticks multiple WOW boxes, including: ‘trendy’, ‘no flour’, ‘no butter’, ‘no grain’, ‘gluten-free’,’ paleo’, ‘ kids friendly’, and more.  So, yes, DECADENT, DELICIOUS and fast DISAPPEARING cake. Unfortunately, the latter adjective is not just used in a figurative sense.  According to the news, the most wanted food of Gods is imperiled by droughts and diseases and the future of the proverbial cocoa seed doesn’t seem so bright.  I therefore suggest you schedule your next chocolate baking session while it’s still available and/or affordable…
Not to mention, how nicely it juxtaposes with today’s gloomy and foggy weather…
The recipe didn’t fall on our lap, we’ve made an extensive research trying to find/compile it and balancing the demand (birthday person’s love for chocolate) and the supply (our personal choice to skip the flour and butter from the cake and replace them with leaner and healthier nuts and edible fiber).  We’ve casted avocados, carrots, pumpkin and zucchini as possible combinations with dark chocolate, but to no avail of something extraordinary in our archives. We then reached out for several modern baking guru suggestions (Anna Olson, Nigel Slater, Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver, David Leibovitz, Aran Goyoaga) and the beets quickly surfaced from their recent books, shows and Internet recipes. The beets in chocolate cakes are mostly appreciated for adding the moistness and caramel flavor touch (while the beets themselves being completely disguised in the cake to absolutely no way you can tell them apart from chocolate). These facts got us hooked. We couldn’t wait to experiment with them and chocolate!
The recipe became a cross of Jamie Oliver’s ‘Chocolate & Beetroot Cake’ recipe with ground almonds (no flour or butter in it, just like we wanted), and beetroot ingredient being baked in advance (like in Anna Olson’s recipe).  Quick note: most of the recipes stipulated that the beet should be baked, so we decided to skip raw beets and use the cooked ones (although may be next time we will dare to use them raw – we just didn’t want to take a chance this time).  As for the icing we’ve selected Martha Stewart’s ganache recipe (thusly, adding some butter and cream to what otherwise was supposed to be just a melted chocolate drizzle). 
This recipe is not complicated:  we found it simple and relatively fast to prepare (guess what, it’s coming from the Jamie’s Garden Project with Kids series, so, clearly, you can engage your kids into play when making it for more fun).
For the chocolate ganache glaze, place the chocolate in a bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering, then pour over chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes. Add butter, Cognac or rum, if using, and mix until smooth. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Pour glaze over chocolate cake.
As for the swaps I used 50/50 golden and red beets. I assume you can replace them with raw zucchini or pumpkin (excess water squeezed out). Ground almonds can swap with ground hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan or macadamia. The crowning glory of the chocolate ganache coating can swap with just melted chocolate drizzle and/or powder sugar dusting, and/or fresh berries, like raspberries. The chocolate and cocoa are, naturally, irreplaceable for now. So far, and Ummm, for the next XXX years?  
Finally, one last note: according to Jamie Oliver, measuring the ingredients is ‘a key to the success of this cake, so please use the scale to exact the amounts.
Have fun and indulge your senses!
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NO-FLOUR CHOCOLATE ALMOND & BEETROOT CAKE 

For the Cake:

Olive oil to grease the baking pan
Flour (regular or gluten-free if necessary) for dusting the form
10.5 oz (300 g) quality dark (bittersweet)chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
9 oz (250g) baked beet root, peeled and coarsely grated
4 large eggs
5.3 oz (150 g) caster (powder) sugar
1 1/5 cup (120 g) ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp quality cocoa powder
For the Glaze (Ganache) (optional):
3 oz bittersweet chocolate
½ cup heave cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp Cognac or rum (optional)
Berries, for serving
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 20cm cake spring form with olive oil. Cut a circle of parchment paper, size of the bottom of the tin, to line the base. Dust the sides of the tin lightly with flour, then tap the tin to get rid of any excess.
Break 7oz (200g) of the chocolate up into small pieces and add to a heatproof bowl over the barely simmering water to melt.
Place the grated beetroot into a big bowl.
Separate the eggs, placing the whites into a separate large mixing bowl and adding the yolks to the beetroot, then wash your hands.
Stir the sugar, almonds, baking powder, cocoa powder and melted chocolate into the beetroot and mix together well.
Whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks.
Use a flexible spatula to fold a quarter of the egg whites into the beetroot mixture to loosen, then, once combined, fold the rest, but try not to over mix.
Add the mixture to the prepared cake tin and spread out evenly using a spatula.
Bake in the hot oven for 50 minutes, or until risen and cooked through. Check with the cocktail stick if it comes out clean the cake is cooked. If slightly sticky it needs to cook for a bit longer.
Allow the cake to cook slightly. Open the spring form and carefully move the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.  Discard the parchment paper.
When ready to serve, melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle over the cake, or glaze it with chocolate ganache (see instructions above).
Serve with fresh berries, yogurt, ice cream or whipped cream if desired.
Adapted from Chocolate & Beetroot Cake by Jamie Oliver, jamieoliver.com 2014

Vegetarian Borscht Primer


Now that 2014 Olympic Winter Games are over and 70,000 gallons of what was called classic Russian Borscht were reportedly flushed down with the help of vodka and adrenalin in Sochi, I think I can finally reveal my favorite borscht recipe. This is not to bring your attention back to the Soviet food like a dreary svekolnik, listless shchi or mayonnaise-drenched salads – all of which celebrity food critic Jay Rayner called ‘miserable in every way‘. Rather, I really wanted to share a wonderful recipe of the great vegetarian borscht with cabbage, Porcini, beans and of course BEEEETS, which I guarantee will make your heart beat happily. A Ukrainian friend from Toronto shared this recipe with me almost a decade ago. It was so good it became my vegetarian borscht primer. I made small additions to it over the years (swapping cultivated for wild mushrooms, adding a splash of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of spices to create a serious depth Porcini, a touch of organic cider (which I home-made last summer) and cumin can offer in soups. Voila, deep yet clean flavored borscht, which I like to punch with anchovy-garlic-parsley umami-drizzled croutons when serving.
Beets are relatively unpopular in the West, but their liver cleansing, heart strengthening and anti-inflammatory powers have been known in Eastern Europe for centuries, hence the countless varieties of beet dishes which became kitchen staples there. 
Borscht became so popular in Ukraine and Russia, for example, that people were eating it three times a day. A century ago, Russian kids were even served borscht for breakfast. 
One century after. Brooklyn, NYC…
Some of these Russian kids’ descendents are in Brooklyn now waiting to be called yet for another plate of borscht
Here, in North America, the most popular beet soup established under the name borscht (Yiddish) due to Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe. The name stuck to it and today even the Ukrainian variety from ‘’Baba’’ is called borschtand not borshch. The New York City, namely, Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach or East Villagewould probably be the spots to sample borschtof all kind of origins at once in Jewish, Russian, Polish and Ukrainian delis, dairies and coffee shops. And so would have any other big city’s Russian-Jewish quarter on a smaller scale.   

The origin of borschtis a bit complicated and is closely connected with the cultivation of beetroot in the territory of modern Ukraine. I tend to agree with the narrative from the ‘’Russian Cooking’’ volume from Foods of the World published by Time Inc. in 1969: ‘’Ukrainians insist that they were the originators of borshch, and since there was Kiev when Moscow was a ‘’wheel track in the forest’’ they may be right. Actually, the question of who may justly claim the first – or, for that matter, the best – borshch may never be answered, for there are now more versions than can be counted or tasted. In general, Ukrainian borshch is distinguished from Russian by the presence of tomatoes, pork as well as beef, and a greater variety of vegetables, including garlic.’’  
But who am I to take a stand on the borscht’s heritage? The dish has been a subject of geopolitical irony between Russia and Ukraine forever and it looks like Ukraine has been doing some serious steps to defend what is Ukrainian lately, so there’s probably no need for my rumblings. Besides, to tell you the truth, I am frightened of one of my local Russian acquaintances and don’t want to give too much food for her inevitable anger (just kidding, darling).  Each to their own, and so I cease any further discussion of the origin of borsch and proceed to the recipe.
Now, who wants to know a great Lenten recipe of vegetarian borscht? First of all, allow yourself at least 1 hour to make a good quality borscht. Secondly, it’s important to have the right proportion of vegetables in this recipe. Since it’s hard to measure the size of veggie to a cup volume sometimes, I’d tell you my usual quantity is 3 medium-sized beets, 2 small potatoes, 1 carrot, 1 onion, ½ green cabbage head, 1 can of white beans, ½ cup of tomato coulis for the quantity of liquid mentioned below. When reconstituting dried mushrooms, I save the liquid and add it to the stock for enhanced flavor. I also believe that adding a small shot of apple cider vinegar is balancing the flavor of the borscht perfectly. In many recipes a teaspoon to a tablespoon of sugar is suggested to add extra sweetness, but I think if you have enough beets, there is no need for that.
It’s very important to add and cook the ingredients in proper order, as some vegetables take longer to cook than others. Finally, timing is crucial not to overcook the borscht turning it from red, crunchy and flavorful to yellow and tasteless. Because of that I could never understand the recipes of borscht that take hours to cook.
Final tips: Borscht tastes better if allowed to sit for a few hours or overnight before serving.
Is delicious hot or cold, with or without sour cream or croutons. It also freezes well.  Enjoy your Slavic cooking experience!
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VEGETARIAN BEET, CABBAGE, MUSHROOM & BEAN BORSCHT
Yields: 6 to 10 portions
Ingredients:
10 cups (2.5 l) vegetable stock or water
1 generous handful dried Porcini, reconstituted and minced OR 2 cups of sliced cultivated mushrooms
4 tbsp (60 ml) olive oil OR sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cup (750 ml) beets, peeled and julienned
1 carrot, julienned
3 cup (750 ml) green cabbage, thinly shredded
1 can (19 oz) or 2 cups cooked navy OR white kidney beans
½ cup (125 ml) tomato coulis OR 1 cup (250 ml) of chopped canned tomatoes
2 tbsp (30 ml) organic apple cider vinegar OR lemon juice
1 pinch of ground cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt to taste
For garnish:
1 bunch of parsley OR 10 dill springs, chopped
1 cup of sour cream or plain yogurt
Garlic-Anchovy Croutons for an extra garnish:
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 4-5 chopped anchovies and cook for a minute or until they melt into oil. Stir in 3 minced garlic cloves and cook until fragrant for 1 minute. Add 2 cups of cubed stale bread (gluten free if you like) and ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground pepper. Toast tossing frequently for 3-5 minutes until croutons are golden and crisp.
Instructions:
Note: It’s important to add and cook the ingredients in proper order, as some vegetables take longer to cook than others.
Add the stock or water to a large soup pot and bring to boil. In the meantime, add 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet, bring to the medium-high heat and sauté onion with mushrooms for 2 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add sautéed mushrooms, onion to the boiling stock and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Add potatoes, bring to boil and simmer for another 10 minutes.
In the meantime, add 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet, bring to the medium-high heat and sauté  beets and carrots for 2 minutes. Add beets and carrots to the pot, bring to boil and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Add shredded cabbage, beans, tomato juice, vinegar, cumin, pepper and salt to the pot, bring to boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the cabbage is tender, but still a bit crunchy. Check the seasoning and skim any foam. Remove from the heat. Discard the bay leaves.  Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with generous dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt and parsley or dill. Serve immediately.