It didn’t take much ruminating on my part to come up with my premiere post on this new blog. It’s autumn, my favorite season. Soup season. End of the wicked heat of summer. Great root and other vegetables. And one of the best soups I’ve made in recent years is a root vegetable soup in which beets play a starring role.
Now this choice might not seem strange to many folks, at least not the beet lovers out there, but I couldn’t have imagined creating such a soup a few years ago. I hated beets, never having known any but the canned ones of my childhood (which I refused to let pass my lips). However, a few years ago I’d joined one of my writing groups in a 5-day retreat in Massachusetts and we took one day off from our personal writings to pilgrimage to Emily Dickinson’s home in Amherst and to do a little strolling about Northhampton, where we indulged in lunch at a fabulous vegetarian restaurant. I was enchanted by the description of a beet soup (bisque? cream soup?) on the menu and dared to order it. To my amazement, I not only loved it but wished it had been a bigger bowl! I vowed to create a soup using beets at some later date. I knew my husband Bill would go for it– he even likes the canned variety, which almost never enter our household.
Conjuring up the recipe involved my ususal researching through cookbooks and a little clicking online, to see how others have handled such creations. I was even clueless about basics, like how long does one cook a beet? Do you peel them? It all came together in the following concoction, which is especially yummy if you go for the optional light cream and a dab of sour cream (or yogurt). The bonus for me was that a photograph taken prior to prepping the vegetables wound up being the model for my sketching and painting the tile which became the centerpiece for our kitchen’s backsplash. And it’s now cropped and serving as this blog’s header pic!
Don’t be frightened by the list of ingredients. It’s a little time-consuming but not difficult to make– and so worth it! I’m not going to indulge in something like Harvard Beets or any other standard beet dishes anytime soon, but this one is a winner in my book! Hope you try it. If you do, let me know how yours turned out. And feel free to innovate any way you deem delicious– that’s how cooking magic happens!
MARILYN’S CREAMY (BUT NOT NECESSARILY WITH CREAM) ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP
- Beets, peeled & diced – about 2 cups
- Carrots, peeled & diced – about 1½ cups
- Sweet Potato, 1 medium, peeled & diced
- Butter (or butter substitute), softened, 1 tbsp.
- White Potato (any kind) – 1 medium, peeled & diced
- 1 medium onion, peeled & diced
- 2-3 stalks celery, ridges peeled, diced (reserve any celery leaves)
- olive or canola oil, 1 tbsp.
- butter, 1 tsp.
- 1 small box chicken broth (about 1 ½ to 2 cups)
- 2 bay leaf
- sea salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
- juice of ½ lemon
- parsley, chopped – ½ cup
- dried thyme – ½ tsp.
- applesauce, scant ½ cup
- honey, ½ – 1 tsp.
- light cream (optional) – up to ¼ cup
- sour cream (optional) – as desired
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Place beets and carrots in a large pan and cover with water. Pour a bit of the chicken broth in (a few tablespoons). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer (it will be about 25 minutes until the next addition).
While beets/carrots simmer, place peeled, diced sweet potato in a small baking dish greased with the softened butter. Swish sweet potato chunks around dish to coat with butter. (If you like, you can sprinkle with dried parsley, sea salt and ground pepper.) Bake in 350 degree oven until fork test indicates they are done (soft) – perhaps 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and turn it off.
Sauté onion and celery in the oil for 2 or 3 minutes (to release flavor). Add remaining chicken broth, bay leaf, sea salt and ground pepper. Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add diced white potatoes to beets/carrots after about 25 minutes. Continue to cook this mixture of vegetables until all three veggies are fork tender.
Place a strainer over a large bowl. Empty the vegetable mixture into the strainer, letting the red juice drain into the bowl. Then empty the onion/celery/broth mixture into the strainer, again allowing juice to drain into the bowl.
Remove the 2 bay leaves and toss them out.
Remove the veggies from the strainer into a separate bowl (reserve the large pan to refill with soup mixture) and add the roasted sweet potatoes.
Add the lemon juice to the juices already strained into the bowl.
Mix parsley and thyme into the vegetable mixture.
Begin to gradually add vegetable mix to the food processor, along with a little of the juice. Process on puree until it is your preferred consistency for soup (if you plan to add light cream to it, you may want a slightly less creamy texture since cream will loosen it up more), adding the applesauce and honey to one of the batches being processed.
As each batch is processed, return it to the pan. Slowly heat the mixture, stirring occasionally.
Once heated, the soup can be eaten as is, no cream added, or a small amount of light cream can add a bit of richness (but warm a minute more after adding cream).
Top with sour cream or yogurt, if desired. A pretty sprig of parsley atop a drop of the white stuff is nice if you’re trying to impress company!