Growing up in Pittsburgh in the early 70’s I remember my mother always having canned goods in the house. The Green Giant variety seems to be my main recollection; corn, peas, green beans and beets. It’s funny to think about that now, because in our house the only two canned vegetables I keep in my pantry are tomatoes for sauce and beans for salads. I will say that I generally enjoy making beans from scratch, as they are really not hard to make - only requiring a little planning on my part to soak over night; but in a pinch, for a quick dish, you can’t go wrong with having ceci, cannellini or even black beans handy.
I like to think of beets as a real “super food.” They are very low in calories and contain only small amount of fat. Their nutritional benefits come particularly from fiber, vitamins, minerals, and unique plant derived anti-oxidants. Red beets are a rich source of a compound called Betaine. Betaine is important as it helps lower the amino acid homocysteine, which is linked to heart disease. Raw beets are an excellent source of Folate and Vitamin C. Beet greens (the tops) are an excellent source of Vitamin A.
So with all that great goodness, what should we do? After a little pondering, I decided it would be fun to show you two different ways to use beets in recipes this week: one is a simple salad and one a cold soup.
Starting with the same process for the soup I just added a few other things to my beets and came up with a pretty simple dish for you to try. My onion ratio ended up being 1 cup. Use what you have in your kitchen. Although I did not try it, I'm sure a sweet Vidalia would work just as well. So while the beets were cooking I sautéed my leek and scallion. The key is to just sweat the onions to soften them and bring out their natural sugars and flavor. I wasn't going for the caramelized flavor here.
Everything goes straight to the blender to be pureed. I used the water that the beets were cooking in as my "stock" for the soup. You can see my ratio below, but do this to your preferred texture. Just keep in mind that the soup will thicken slightly as it cools. Recheck the seasoning at this point and add salt and pepper to taste. Then get it into a container and into the 'fridge. You want this soup to be nice and cold when you serve it.
I hope you enjoy these two ways to eat beets. I'll be at the Rye Brook Farmers Market this coming Saturday, so please stop by for a taste.
Maria’s Cold Beet Soup
1 bunch of beets, about 1½ lb.
Ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small leek, white part only, chopped
1 medium shallot, chopped
Chevre (goat) cheese
Beet green, garnish
Trim the greens from the beet leaving about 2” from the base of the beet. Wash the beets and greens thoroughly. Set the greens and stalks aside for another use, wrapping loosely in a paper towel and place in a plastic bag.
In a small sauté pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil gently and add the equivalent of 1 cup of onion to the pan. Season with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper and gently sweat the onions until they are soft and translucent. Scoop out ½ cup of beet water and add to the pan mixing into the sautéed onions. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
Once the beets are cooked remove them from the pot, but save the liquid. Allow them to cool slightly, about 5 minutes, and then remove the skins using a paper towel. (You might also want to use latex gloves as well – the beets will definitely stain your hands!) Chop in to quarters and place in your blender. Add the onion mixture along with all of the liquid from that pan to beets in the blender. Then add 2 cups of beet water. Cover the lid of the blender with a kitchen towel if the liquid is still hot, and hold down firmly. Blend on the low speed and slowly increase. (This is very important, you don’t want the lid shooting off and making a huge mess in your kitchen.)
Place the beets in a small 4-quart pot and add cold water to cover by 3 inches. Add 1 tablespoon each of kosher salt and sugar. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer until the beets are tender on the inside, testing with a small paring knife. Depending on the size of the beets this step will take 10-20 minutes.
Once your mix is blended add another cup of the beet liquid pureeing very well and then check the consistency. Depending on your taste you can add a little more beet water, but I found this to be the best ratio with 1½ pounds of beets, which ended up being 9 in total, from my bunch.
Check for seasoning and add a little more salt and pepper to taste. Place the soup in a container and when completely cool cover and put in the ‘fridge for at least 3 hours. To serve top with a tablespoon of chevre or plain Greek yogurt and garnish with some thinly sliced ribbons of a beet green.