Okroshka: A Fresh Probiotic Soup with Root Vegetables
Although losing excess weight is always a worthy goal, improving your health is another one. You might achieve a two-for one by including a slightly unusual soup in your menu.
Okroshka is a soup of Eastern European origin. Made with fresh vegetables, the soup typically has a beef or pork stock base. What adds the little extra is a fermented liquid like kefir, beet kvass or yogurt. Fermented foods are high in probiotics, the healthy bacteria found in your intestines. Yogurt is probably the poster child for fermented food, but kefir often has more probiotics and may include more strains than yogurt. In addition to other probiotic strains, kefir includes the unique probiotic Lactobacillus kefiri, which is not found in other fermented foods. Beet kvass is a fermented liquid made from beets, and is another excellent probiotic source. Beet kvass, or a similar liquid, is also often used in the well-known Russian borscht soup.
The vegetables in okroshka are usually raw. Many recipes also include cooked meat or sausage. Some may include hard-boiled eggs or cooked potatoes. Radishes, cucumbers and green onions are some of the vegetables used in this refreshing soup. You could also add carrots, turnips or parsnips. The vegetables are sliced or chopped into bite-sized pieces. Herbs like dill or additions like Smetana — a horseradish/mustard based condiment — liven up the soup.
You can even make your own kefir. You’ll need a kefir starter kit, which you can find at your grocery or health food store. Add the starter to milk, cover with a coffee filter held in place with a rubber band, and let the milk ferment for 24 to 36 hours at room temperature. Strain the milk — the kefir grains can be reused — and store both milk and grains in the refrigerator.
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