Walker has incredibly high food expectations, despite not being able to cook anything other than bacon himself until recently, because his family is full of fabulous cooks. His father makes fabulous fried oysters and his sister runs a bakery and his mother’s food is effortlessly perfect.

Even their family friends are wonderful in the kitchen. Javi, who runs the best restaurant in Huatulco, Mexico as far as I’m concerned, single handedly changed the way I thought about beets.

When we first went to his restaurant, his soups certainly caught my eye, but I would have completely overlooked the beet soup had someone else not ordered it and offered a spoonful. I daintily sipped at the soup out of politeness at first, and then I realized that beats did not at all have to be the slimy congealed blobs served at salad bars.

Walker raves about Javi’s soup, though amazingly enough, he can’t remember if it is served hot or cold. Cold soup in the middle of the winter didn’t sound particularly appetizing, so I decided to go with this roasted beet soup, found on Epicurious, as an approximation of Javi’s.

Ingredients

Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a starter

1/2 pound red beets (for me this was one freakishly large beet, but should normally be 3)
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 leek (white and pale green parts only), chopped
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice – I substituted a pinch of each of the following: cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 small bay leaf
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 fresh parsley sprig
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap beets in foil and roast until tender when pierced with fork, about 1 hour for normal beets. With my gigantic beet this took 3 hours at 200°C.

2. Pull beets out of oven, and keep in mind that beets stain, so don’t wear light clothing and consider a pair of gloves while working with them. Cool by running under tap water. The skin will come off easily if you just run your fingers across it. Cut beets into 1/2-inch chunks.

3. Melt butter with oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leek, onion, and celery and cook until beginning to brown, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.

4. Stir in ginger, allspice (see my note about a good substitution), white pepper, and 1/2-inch beet pieces. Cook until vegetables begin to stick to bottom of pot, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.

5. Add 2 cups stock, bay leaf, thyme sprig, and parsley sprig. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

6. Remove bay leaf, thyme sprig, and parsley sprig. Cool soup slightly, and then working in batches, puree soup in blender with cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. I almost never use salt, but for this recipe I added a healthy teaspoon of sea salt, and topped the soup with some cracked black pepper.

7. Gently rewarm soup being careful not to boil it. Divide into the bowls and garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon crème fraîche or sour cream.

Roasted beet soup - it really does come out that lovely shade of magenta

Critic’s Comments

“This is fantastic!”

“Mmm so creamy and delicious. To think I didn’t like beets at one point in my life. Almost tastes like there’s cheese in here!” <– You all don’t understand. To say there’s cheese in something is Walker’s highest compliment. If left to his own devices he would probably eat a giant hunk of cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

“It’s smooooth”

“This should go into your soup repertoire for our soup shop”

“The beet is so subtile. It fills your mouth evenly.”

I really enjoyed the flavor of this soup. We will definitely have it again. Next time, I will serve it with some goat cheese crostini. I think the earthiness of the goat cheese would be a really interesting match against the natural sweetness of the beets.

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