M. Andrew Gordon

Beet Soup

In Appetizers, Soups and Stews on November 16, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Loyal readers of this blog know my fondness for beets.  I think they are a remarkable vegetable that is highly underappreciated and underutilized.  Over the weekend I made a soup that was something like a borscht but that’s probably not quite fair to say.  Besides being loaded with beets, it was also stocked full of butternut squash, carrots, apples, and cranberries.

I used a trick I often utilize when making chili or stew which is to cook onions and garlic down to the point that they begin to caramelize and sweeten and then toss in a bunch of spices to meld with that sweetness, which also toasts the spices, ramping up their flavor even more.  Then an addition of alcohol, in this case brown ale, is reduced to almost nothing, lending a boozy and malty sweetness to the dish.  A pot of chili that follows that prescription is, in my opinion, so much better than one without.  After the beer reduction, I added half of the vegetable stock and the squash and let that soften before adding the rest of the ingredients.

The backbone of the soup was a flavorful stock I made using lots of celery, onion, fennel, carrots, and parsnips but in a pinch you can probably get away with using canned stock.  If you have no concerns about taking this dish away from its vegetarian roots, I imagine a quality chicken stock would make this sing.  So, really, it was a fairly simple affair but in order to properly make it, you’ll need to plan ahead to roast the beets and make the stock.

What the dinner party crowd on Saturday night agreed on was that the real secret weapon to this soup was a garnish of pickled carrot and parsnip and toasted pumpkin seeds.  To pickle carrots and parsnips for use fairly quickly, in other words, not for canning, bring 1 cup of water, ¾ cup of apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup honey,  1 tablespoon black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon each of toasted cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds; and a teaspoon of salt to a boil.  Toss in some combination of 3 large carrots or parsnips finely chopped and let cook until just beginning to soften.  Pour contents into a glass jar, cap with a lid and refrigerate for several days.

Beet Soup – serves 10

  • 5 red beets, scrubbed and tops removed
  • 3 golden beets, scrubbed and tops removed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, cut into thin slices
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon New Mexico chile powder
  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 12 ounces brown ale
  • 2 apples, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 squash, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 cup of drained pickled carrots/parsnips
  • 1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place each beet in a separate square of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil.  Wrap foil around beets to seal and roast for about 50 minutes or until beets are tender.  Let cool and unwrap foil packets.  Slide skins off of beets and roughly chop.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and cook, until onions are translucent and starting to brown, about 8 minutes.  Add cinnamon, cumin, coriander, chile powder, and paprika and cook for 2 minutes.  Add brown ale and boil, until nearly completely reduced.
  3. Add apples, carrots, sqaush, and beets.  Stir to coat in oil and cook for several minutes.  Add stock and cranberries.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  4. Transfer soup in batches to a food processor or blender and puree.  Strain back into saucepan, stir in maple syrup and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve with pickled carrots and toasted pumpkin seeds.

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