You probably have heard of Borshch as one of the most famous Russian dishes. But do you realize what a nutritional treasure it is?

My new friend cooks this killer borshch! After enjoying it, it strikes me that this colorful dish is not only delicious and invigorating, but also the perfect nutritional powerhouse. No wonder the Russians can survive on it for days!

“In Russia we eat it as a main dish for lunch, it doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter. For hot weather, there is cold borshch; the hot one presented here is perfect for the winter. There are many variations. Some have cabbage, some don’t. Some have red beans or mushrooms. But the one constant is beets. The meat with bone, usually beef, is the perfect base to make a broth. But pork or chicken are used too. It all depends on how you like it.”


Nutrition and Color
Our bodies rely on many substances present in our food to grow, repair and regulate themselves: these are the micronutrients, electrolytes and minerals. We group them under the term “nutrients” for short. 
Nutrients, with a few important exceptions, are colorful. Eating by color is a guarantee that we’ll get many forms of nutrients.

Borshch is replete with nutrition. We could attempt to make a list of the nutrients it contains; but you just need to look at the color of the ingredients to understand it’s loaded. The addition of meat and sour cream  makes it a complete meal.


(Serves 8 to 10 as a main course)

  • 1 lb beef stew meat with bone (not too lean)
  • ½ cabbage, shredded
  • 8 small potatoes (or less), peeled and cubed
  • 1 oz butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large onion, diced finely
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 3 red beets, grated
  • ½ lemon
  • 3 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Bay leaves

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Fig Chutney

Ah… Fig season… For those who are lucky enough to have a fig tree in the backyard, this means a bounty of plump, juicy, sweet, meaty fruits. But wait a minute… What about all the sugar?

Figs are delicious and full of nutrients. From their color, you can guess that they are replete with “cyans” (our generic term for anthocyanidins, anthocyanins and other similarly named purple-blue substances). But from their taste, it’s obvious that they are loaded with sugar. So you feel guilty eating them… And you feel guilty wasting them. Of course you could give them to your friends, but there is the ethical issue: is it right to feed others what you won’t eat?

We have been told time and again that fruit is good for us. And indeed, given the choice between a doughnut and fruit, one should definitely go for the fruit. However, in the context of a nutrient-rich, real food diet, fruit is not as important, since it contains no nutrient that you couldn’t get elsewhere, while packing a fairly large quantity of sugar.

IT’S WORTH REPEATING: Fruits are delicious! But there is nothing unique in them: you can find all the same nutrients, with less sugar, in the colorful nutrient-dense vegetables. Contrary to the widespread belief that fruits are essential to our diet, we don’t need fruit, provided we follow a colorful, nutrient-rich diet.


figsHere is a good way to extricate yourself out of this distressing dilemma: preserves allow you to spread the consumption of the sugary treat throughout the year, and share it with your friends too. In limited amounts, fruit relishes are an amazing way to bring nutrition and variety to the table. The spices are also an important contributor to our health and, without being magical, possess unique medicinal effects.

Fig Chutney

(Adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s recipe – Makes 8 1-pint jars)

  • 2 1/2 pounds firm, slightly underripe fresh figs
  • 4 cups vinegar of your choice (not balsamic, though)
  • 16 oz brown sugar (yes, that’s a lot…)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • ⅔ cup chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 organic lemon zests, chopped
  • 3 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 3 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

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Stem Soup

Here is a great way to get nutrition while making the most of your vegetables. Add a poached egg and you have a delicious breakfast to help you start the day!

On Wednesday mornings, I get my vegetable box delivered from the local organic farm. This saves a little bit of trouble with buying all the bulky vegetables that our household consumes in large quantities.

(Talking about organic, remember that “organic” doesn’t always equals “nutritious”. Check the growers’ credentials and verify that their agricultural practices are sound.)

…and after.

To save time, I fill the sink with water and wash the vegetables in bulk. After drying them, I cut them up and pack them in plastic bags so they are ready to use during the rest of the week. (This also keeps the refrigerator organized.)

While I’m at it, I dice the stems right away, and throw them in a big pot as I go. The soup cooks while I am dealing with the rest of the vegetables, a bonus.

Stem vs. Leaf
Don’t discard the stems of the leafy greens. They possess as much nutritional value as the florets or the leaves:
– The stems contain more chloroplasts and the associated chlorophyll and carotenoids, they also have more fiber.
– The maturation of nutrients in the stem and in the floret are different and complement each other.


Stem 01
Fresh beet stems and leaves are good.
Stem 03
Fennel stem and leaves are useful too!

Most stems are edible. Absolutely keep these:
♥ Beet stems and leaves
♥ Fennel stems and leaves
♥ Chard, kale, collard green and all the leafy green stems in general.

(Carrot tops are the only green stuff that comes in abundance and that I don’t know what to do with. Apparently you can eat them, but I’m not sure how…)

Stem Soup

(Proportions don’t matter much, use whatever you have.)

  • Stems from leafy green vegetables, fennel, beets
  • 1 tablespoon oil or butter or a few slices of bacon
  • bones (optional)
  • broth (optional)
  • other vegetables (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, spices, herbs

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Asparagus and Leek Soup

Spring is just around the corner, well at least in California. (In Minnesota maybe less so.) In any case, get ready to enjoy fresh asparagus, one of the many gifts of the season.

This soup is an opportunity to enjoy the first of the young spring asparagus. Choose medium-sized asparagus (neither pencil sized nor too large) and look for tips that are tight and free from flowering.

Although you can serve the soup “as is,” the cream garnish brings valuable dairy fats.

Asparagus, in addition to being a good source of fiber, has one of the most complete spectrums among vegetables both for amino acids and elements. Asparagine, a fairly common amino acid with a distinctive smell, is rarely found in such abundance as in the asparagus. It is a good thing to have because it is used by our body to make a variety of other amino acids.

For these reasons, asparagus should be a staple in our diet, not an exotic food.

Leeks, being sulphur donors, like all the members of the allium family, are good for the immune system, joints and cartilage. They have a very broad spectrum of essential amino acids (which is rare for vegetables), extremely low glycemic load and glycemic index, and some anti-inflammatory properties.

Efficiency, Completeness, Spectrum, Quality: all these words refer to the same notion: how many key nutrients are present in a given food? 

Protein – A “complete” or “efficient” protein source contains all 9 essential amino acids, in proportions suitable for our body: excess in any particular amino acid results in imbalance. Although our body can adjust within a certain range, it cannot deal with overwhelming imbalance. By eating a variety of proteins, we avoid stressing our body’s regulation capability. 

 Over-emphasizing “completeness” may lead to problems, though. Restricting your choice of proteins to the “efficient” ones narrows your options and impoverishes your diet.

Eating a large variety of proteins is a better way to take care of efficiency!

Fat – Fat quality is determined by the quality of its source: fat is not an isolated molecule, it comes within a whole matrix of other ingredients, and those must be healthy too. Healthy fats start with healthy animals and healthy plants.

Micronutrients and elements that have a physiological function in our body are too many to count. If you eat a restricted diet, you will forgo many healthy nutrients.

Serves 6

  • 2 medium leeks (white to light-green part only)
  • 2 lb medium-sized asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups chicken stock

For the citrus cream (optional):

  • 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup crème fraîche
  • Zest and juice of one lemon

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Cauliflower Crust Savory Pies

This cauliflower preparation can serve as a crust substitute in many savory pies. In fact, it does such a good job that it’s hard to remember the crust is not made of flour. (And it is probably single-handedly responsible for the much feared cauliflower shortage recently mentioned in the Wall Street Journal.)

Although a far cry from the real Neapolitan thing, this method yields a reasonably crunchy crust, if you resist the temptation to pile the topping on too thick.

However, this is probably not the best way to eat cauliflower. By squeezing the water out, we end up with a higher concentration of starches: after all, what makes cauliflower a low-starch food is that it is made of 94% water (whereas a potato is only 78% water). Another undesirable effect is that nutrients escape when squeezing the water out. Still, for nutrients and fiber, this is a lot better than wheat flour.

For a 10” crust, serves 4 (only!)

  • 4 cups grated cauliflower florets (1 medium head)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 oz shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Flamenkuchen topping (forgive me, Jean):

  • 4 oz onion, minced
  • 3 oz bacon, cut into matchsticks
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream

Pizza topping example (forgive me, Roberto):

  • Fresh tomato slices
  • Tomato paste
  • Mozzarella
  • Olives
  • Anchovies

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Chestnut Soup

This simple, hearty soup makes a good fall or winter starter. Chestnuts used to be standard fare in the French countryside, most of the time cooked in milk for supper. The soup is extremely easy to prepare with peeled, pre-cooked chestnuts. It is quite an ordeal to make it with whole raw chestnuts, though!

Serves 6

  • 1 onion
  • 3 oz bacon
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon Brandy
  • 1 lb peeled, pre-cooked chestnuts
  • 1 qt broth
  • Crème fraîche or sour cream

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