I can’t count the number of times I’ve presented a menu to a cooking class with a beet recipe in it, and gotten looks like I was proposing a final walk to the gallows. I proceed with a lightness of being, however, because I know what will ensue, which involves almost heavenly transformation.
That’s because beets aren’t the mushy, overcooked demon most people think they are. Instead, what cooks discover is a whole, new, gorgeously-hued world of flavor. Add to that the considerable health benefits of the beet, and you’ve got delicately delicious flavor, and a nutritional powerhouse on your plate (or in your bowl).
I recently gave classes in California, where students merrily cooked their way through menus, one of which included beet soup. I saw the usual grimaces when I outlined the menu, and I proceeded with my typical confidence. It’s not that I care about being correct (I’m used to it, lol), it’s that I’m sure of my ammunition, among which is the following recipe. It helps me along my track of broadening people’s culinary horizon to include all sorts of humble yet exquisite ingredients. Simple, beautiful, healthful, classy, imaginative…this soup takes beets to a whole new, French level. And I predict it will become a regular part of your winter repertoire, as will the vegetable broth used as its base. So, go out there, find some raw beets, and get going!
P.S. Note that I specify “raw beets”. That’s probably because I live in France where most beets are sold pre-cooked. Why, I’m often asked? The practice dates back to the Second World War. Then, fuel was scarce. Farmers had a healthier allotment than others, and as a service to their customers they began to cook beets on the farm, over big vats of salted water so they emerged completely tender, and lightly seasoned to boot. When I first moved to France, a raw beet was nearly impossible to find; today the practice of pre-cooking beets persists, but raw beets are common too, sitting proudly on the market stand next to their floppy, pre-cooked brethren. I, however, like to cook my own beets, particularly for this recipe where roasting concentrates their flavor.
Note that this makes a wonderful addition to the Christmas table, with its seasonal burst of color. Bon Appétit!