Monday, August 24, 2015

Vegan Borscht

I got Glutened.

Exited, curious, nervous. All these emotions coursing through my veins.
I’m on the threshold of another potluck, the going away party for a treasured friend as she leaves for sunnier climes.
She is the excited one, eager to move to where the sunshine is not celebrated.
And her family are the curious ones, will this middle school be as nice as the one I’m leaving? Is there soccer there? Will the pool truly be the heart of the new condo association?
You can hear the nerves in there as well.  So many changes in store for these lovely friends, so many adventures already under their belts.
This is this family’s 14th move, or maybe the 15th.
A whirlwind family, easily settling into a new situation, creating a new tribe in each city.
And the current tribe gathered last night to celebrate the feminine leader of the clan.
Bringing foods from home, foods picked up on the way, a few bottles of wine and cider to share.
Gathering to acknowledge just how special Sandy is to all of us, realizing we’ll all get to hear of her adventures on Facebook.
Sandy and I at Disneyland
Sandy and I during my first visit to Disneyland
This is where my butterflies start.
Because potlucks are a minefield to a gluten-free person. I’m excited to try new foods lovingly prepared by some of my favorite women.
Curious about a recipe with long history from the Russian Doukhobor tradition for borscht.
Nervous that somehow I’ll get glutened and miss out on the camaraderie by being sick.
My contribution was vegetarian sushi from a place I am certain uses no soy on the veggies, so at least I knew I could eat something.
And I asked questions, just not enough.
That borscht was lovely- bright deep pink, chunks of beets, slivers of red cabbage, caramelized onions,  tiny morsels of new potatoes all combined with a bit of broth and topped with a bit of sour cream, or not. 
borscht- Gluten Free Vegan
A green salad of fresh romaine, scattered with quinoa, tender dried cranberries, lightly toasted pumpkin seeds and a vinaigrette dressing made with a big, round olive oil.  This was the contribution of the other gluten-free person at the party.  I’m always grateful when someone else is gluten-free, then I know I can eat at least two dishes.
Another salad, this time a finely shredded red cabbage, topped simply with orange sections, a bit of rice wine vinegar and oil.  What a lovely bunch of antioxidants that one was. You just have to love a doctor who can cook as well.
And then the hostesses food.

I thought I was safe, that she understood about cross contamination.

I know that for her work she understands that even a trace of flour would make a cake poison to a gluten-free person.
But in the kitchen, when the wheat hides under another name, there lies the problem.
Salmon- basted with soy sauce and brown sugar.  I just didn’t notice the glaze on the fish, I was too busy chatting with some friends I hadn’t seen in too long.  I know the fish is wild caught and locally processed,  I knew that it had been grilled moments before, the tantalizing smell had greeted me as I arrived.
So a bit of it ended up on my plate, I love salmon.
The homemade Minestrone soup-prepared lovingly with fresh organic vegetables, brown rice pasta shells, home grated parmesan on the side.  I was reassured that the pasta was gluten-free and was enjoying the first bite….


Of course, a typical Minestrone soup can have barley in it.  I know that.
I just wasn’t thinking.  I was enjoying the party and my friend had been so careful to use brown rice pasta shells. 
So, when I found the first pearl of barley, I did my best to mitigate the damage.  I put my spoon down, told the other gluten-free person that the soup had gluten and went to find the hostess to ask the questions I should have asked before my first bite. 
Was the soy sauce on the salmon gluten-free?
Her surprise that soy sauce has gluten in it told me all I needed to know.
I’d been glutened.
We chatted a few more minutes about how insidious gluten can be before I excused myself.  Off to the bathroom with my purse in hand to swallow a couple of glutenzyme.  And to marvel at the many ways that gluten can hide in such amazing food.
Luckily this morning, I’m feeling fine.  Perhaps a bit more rumbly in the tummy than usual but that could be from all the cabbage as much from the tiny bit of gluten I got.
I just thank goodness I had the glutenzyme along and was able to take it quickly.  I know I’ve stopped similar reactions in the past with this product.  It works to denature the proteins in my stomach preventing the intact protein from getting to the small intestine. It doesn’t mean I would use it willy-nilly, but it is good insurance.
Vegan Borscht-Gluten Free Beet Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This is one of those recipes that is easy to reach for as the days get colder. I grate most of the vegetables to speed the cooking time (and the preparation time) but you are welcome to chop them all fine instead. If you prefer a smooth soup, then pour it into a blender or use a stick blender to finish the Borscht to the texture you prefer.
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 8
  • 2 large onions- thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 Red or Yukon Gold potatoes- diced into tiny squares.
  • 3 large beets
  • 1 head red cabbage
  • 1 quart good quality Vegetable broth
  • Salt and Pepper to taste, I use about 1 teaspoon of pepper and 1 of salt if using unsalted stock.
  1. In a large stockpot, place the onions and olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Allow them to cook till well browned, about 10 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes and then again each minute.
  3. Add the tiny dice potatoes and let them cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Grate the beets and cabbage in a food processor or by hand.
  5. Add to the stock pot with the onions and potatoes,
  6. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer.
  7. Cook for 10 more minutes or till the cabbage and beets are tender.
  8. Check for salt and pepper.
  9. Puree if desired.

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