NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
Kabees El Lift is a popular Lebanese dish, often served as a lighter side to heavy meat dishes. The dish sports a vibrant pink color, which is made by adding beets to the turnips as they ferment. Fermented foods are great for adding natural probiotics into your diet. And, as Paul Jaminet points out, there is evidence of fermented foods like kimchi helping against autoimmune diseases and allergies. Plus they’re tasty.
I’m not sure how long this dish has been around, but I do know that turnips have been around for a long, long time; the Romans talked about them, and some of their original names were in Greek, which suggests they were eaten in Ancient Greece. Beets have been around just as long, although early forms were only the beet greens, and the bulbous root was developed/cultivated later.
2 lbs turnips (six or seven), peeled and sliced
2 small beets (or one medium beet cut in half), peeled
3 cups water
1/4 cup sea salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves (dried or fresh okay)
Another interesting turnip fact: did you know that rutabagas are the result of cross-breeding turnips and cabbage? Okay, that’s enough history for today, let’s do the recipe.
Mix the salt with 1 cup of boiling water, and stir it together until dissolved. Add the other two cups of water to the hot water, then wait for it to reach room temperature.
As the water cools, peel your veggies. Slice the turnips into spears, about the size of thick-cut french fries.
Arrange your garlic, beets, turnips, and bay leaves in two quart-sized jars (one garlic, beet, and bay leaf per jar) with tight-fitting lids. You could also use one half-gallon jar.
Add the vinegar to the now-cooled water, stir together, then pour the mixture into your jars. Add water as needed so there’s about a 1/2″ of air left in each jar. Cover the jars with their lids. Let the jars sit in a dark area of the house for four days. It might be a good idea to crack the seal on the jar after a couple days to release air pressure if the lid looks a little too pressurized.
Your turnips will have made an unforgettable journey towards pinkness as they ferment.
That’s it! Serve with just about anything, or as an appetizer when entertaining. Store them in the fridge, and they should keep for about a month.