The beet, like a fist tightly clenching its sweetest, is one of the most brilliantly colored treasures held in the dirt. Once scrubbed (and possibly peeled), it begins to reveal its sweet beauty. Cultivated in numerous varieties, colors, shapes and designs (if you’ve never admired the Chioggia beet, have a look here), all of which offer an excellent source of folate, antioxidants, manganese, vitamin C, potassium and fiber, among other nutrients. If you like to grow your own, here’s a nice collection of varied beet seeds for a full array.
The wild beet, the ancestor of what we eat today, traces its roots to North Africa. Initially only the greens were eaten (something we would be wise to do more of today). Early Romans began cultivating beets for the roots, and as they traveled through the continent, beets were widely adopted to feed both animals and humans. By the 19th century, they reached the height of their popularity when the Poles built the first sugar beet factory to extract their highly concentrated sweetness.
This versatile beet soup, when served hot, will warm you to the core, and when enjoyed chilled with fresh dill, is wonderfully refreshing. Blended with an additional splash of water or milk, it becomes an invigorating smoothie. When I made it for my weekly “Market Day Soup”, I was delighted by the color. This is winter food at its most colorful.
Red Velvet Borscht Soup
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 large red onions, diced
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 red potatoes, peeled and cubed (ideally a variety with red flesh such as Adirondack reds)
- 4 bright red beets
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 1/4 teaspoon dill seed
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup milk
- fresh or dried dill weed
- cream, plain yogurt or sour cream (optional)
- Warm soup pot and melt butter. Add onions and cook for 10-15 minutes over low heat to caramelize. Add garlic, potatoes and beets, stir to coat.
- Add stock and dill seeds and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer until vegetables are soft (approximately 20 minutes).
- Turn off heat and add milk.
- In batches, puree soup in a blender or food processor until velvety smooth.
- Gently reheat, or chill. Serve with a dash of cream or dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of dill.
I added another splash or two of milk and ended up with a delicious savory smoothie. Just the thing for a quick lunch.
Make it vegan: Substitute olive oil for butter, and a non-dairy milk for the milk.
Make it paleo/primal: Substitute coconut oil for the butter, and coconut milk for the milk.