Red, orange, yellow. Raw, roasted, boiled, pickled. However you like them, it’s clear that beets have come into their own. I can think of few soups more satisfying on a chilly day than a hearty borscht, nor more elegant in steamy summer than a cold soup of puréed beets (my recipes are after the jump). Roasted, they’re a star in high end restaurants, often paired with arugula and goat cheese. Pickled, they are a staple on Southern tables, and (I’ve heard) often served on hamburgers in Australia (those Aussies!). When I cooked in a French restaurant, we used to grate peeled raw beets, then dress them with a lively mustard vinaigrette, as one part of a composed salad. In the photo above, we prepared beets (along with sliced red onions) for roasting by peeling and cutting them into one-inch pieces. We tossed them with olive oil, mirin, blood orange balsamic vinegar, and a little salt and pepper, then covered and roasted them in a 425º F oven for about an hour. Then we uncovered them, stirred, and roasted them for 20-30 minutes more. Another method is to wrap whole beets individually in foil and roast in a hot oven until a knife inserted slips easily through. This could take 50 minutes, or it could take 90 minutes or more depending on the size of the beets and the efficiency of your oven. Unwrap the beets and, with luck, the peels should slip off pretty easily. When buying beets, try to find those with fresh-looking leaves and stems. When boiled, steamed or stir fried, beet greens make an earthy and humble dish all on their own.
BEET AND CABBAGE BORSCHT
A hearty, warming soup for winter. Yield: 6 servings
6 medium beets, washed
1/2 head of cabbage, cored and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup chopped tomato, canned or fresh
6 cups water or vegetable stock
8 shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup warm water until soft, stems cut off, then thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
2 tablespoons umeboshi vinegar or to taste
2 tablespoons mirin or to taste
salt and pepper
1 small bunch fresh dill (leafy parts only) coarsely chopped
Garnish: sour cream, yogurt or tofu sour cream (optional).
1. Preheat oven to 400º F. Wash beets, trim ends and put in a baking pan with 1/2 inch of water. Cover with foil and place pan on lower shelf of the oven and roast about an hour or until beets are tender (knife inserted goes through easily). Remove from oven, peel and cut into large dice.
2. While beets are roasting, bring the water or stock to a boil in a large soup pot. Add the onion, carrot, bay leaves, a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, nutritional yeast, mirin and the shiitake mushrooms and soaking liquid. Simmer 10 minutes.
3. Add the cabbage, the beets, umeboshi vinegar and simmer 5-10 minutes more or until cabbage is tender. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding soy sauce, salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in a small handful of chopped, fresh dill.
4. Ladle into bowls and garnish with sour cream, yogurt or tofu sour cream and a sprinkling of additional chopped fresh dill.
Beets just seem to pair well with citrus. Excellent served warm or chilled. 4-5 servings.
6 medium beets (about 1 1/2 lbs.), roasted
7 cups water
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, optional
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
fresh juice of one orange
2-3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the garnish: tofu sour cream, yogurt or sour cream, sniped fresh chives.
1. Roast the beets.
2. While the beets are roasting, make the broth by combining the water, carrot, onion, garlic, soy sauce and nutritional yeast in a soup pot, adding a small pinch of salt and black pepper. Simmer 25-30 minutes. Cool partially so that you can handle it safely.
3. Peel the roasted beets, chop and combine with the broth. Puree in a blender in batches until completely smooth. Check seasoning. Chill or return to the stove to gently reheat (do not boil). Garnish as above.