Monday, April 30, 2012

Golden Beet Soup with Herbs

Bowl of Golden Beet Soup with Herb Garnish
Cheery and Unexpected Yellow Soup

Recipe inspired by Healing Foods

“I wonder how that pureed carrot cilantro soup would be with beets, like the gal from Healing Foods suggested. And what kind of herbs would we use with beets?” I pondered.

“If I were you, I’d start with golden beets and a small amount of herbs.”

My husband was on the same wavelength as me. Respectfully wary of a cook who states that beets can be used in the exact same way as carrots. I mean, who ever heard of pureed beet soup? Since we have both golden and red beets from our CSA share, I took Bruce’s advice and used the golden.

Beets on Cutting Board
Chop Beets into Equal Size Pieces
Next the herbs. I wanted to try something different than cilantro, and had recently bought an Italian oregano plant. (Take note: this a great time of year to find big, healthy, organic herb plants, cheaper than a bunch of the cut herbs, sometimes at the same store). The oregano seemed strong, and I thought basil would be milder. The basil I froze last year is a little tired, and a little too brown for a simple soup that relies on its flavor and color. Back to the natural foods store I went, in search of a basil plant to accompany my oregano plant.

Hand Holding Up Potted Thai Basil Plant
Thai Basil Plant: A Lucky Find
The only basil plant I could find was Thai basil, which I’m very excited to put into my garden after so many years without it. The flavor is somewhat stronger than most sweet basil, with more anise overtone than many sweet basils. It complimented the golden beets beautifully, especially with a little of the fresh oregano.

 I cut the original recipe in half, to use one average bunch of beets. You could easily double it. I used butter, but you could use olive oil, or a butter-oil combination. Not-Chick’n bouillon balances nicely with the golden beet flavor, and one cube makes the 2 cups of broth you’ll need, but you can substitute any stock or broth.

You may want to vary the amount of herbs to your taste. To be sure you don’t overdo it, add oregano ½  teaspoon at a time. Start with 2 tsp. Thai basil and add more 1 tsp. at a time till it’s perfect for you. Or substitute Italian sweet basil, lemon basil, cinnamon basil, etc. Don’t skip the salt and pepper at the end. Strangely enough, it makes the flavor significantly more complex. Sometimes it’s those simple things...

Golden Beets and Oregano in Basket
Simple Ingredients: Golden Beets & Herbs
Golden Beet Soup with Herbs
serves 2 - 3

1 bunch golden beets, about 1 ¼ lbs.
1 tsp. butter or olive oil
2 cups hot water
1 Not-Chick’n bouillon cube
4 tsp. chopped Thai basil
1 tsp. chopped Italian oregano
a few basil leaves for garnish
freshly ground pepper
sea salt

Wash and peel beets. Slice about 1 inch thick. Cut up large pieces so all pieces are more or less uniform in size, so they’ll cook evenly.

Heat butter or oil in deep saucepan, add beets and cook over medium high heat for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring up from bottom of pan frequently till all surfaces are coated with oil or butter. Don’t brown them.

Mix bouillon cube with hot water and break up. You needn’t dissolve it fully. Add to beets and bring broth to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. For thicker soup, leave the lid off until liquid level is slightly below beets.

Meanwhile, wash and chop basil and oregano, reserving a few basil leaves for garnish.

Use an immersion blender to puree the beets and liquid, either in the pot (if it’s narrow enough) or the immersion blender container. You can use a food processor or blender instead. Puree to the consistency you like, from slightly chunky to super-smooth.

Add chopped herbs and blend until finely chopped and evenly distributed. For best color, don’t overblend, especially if you’re using a lot of herbs, and/or adding them a little at a time.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, or let diners add this at the table. Garnish bowls with a few basil leaves.

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