Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hodgepodge 236/365 - Beets

It's a hot day (relatively speaking—for here it's warm, anyway, all the way in the high 70s), and after a sweaty walk I found myself craving a cold soup for dinner. I perused the Web and found a few tasty-sounding recipes: one involving carrots and turmeric, one cucumber and yogurt, tomato gazpacho of course, and the one that really caught my attention, beet gazpacho.

I love beets.

We grow beets in our garden through the winter (they are a cool-weather vegetable). They are beautiful and varied, grown for both their greens (e.g., "Bull's Blood")—good in salads or sauteed—and their round, though sometimes cylindrical, usually red rootballs (such heirloom varieties and hybrids as Avenger and Warrior, Sweetheart and Sangria, Di Chioggia—striped red and white—and Touchstone Gold—yellow).

I really like roasted beets—roasted root vegetables, period—as a side dish. I love pickled beets, though I have not yet tried making them. I enjoy borscht. Here, for my future reference, is a compendium of 38 beet recipes from Bon AppĂ©tit magazine. Winter and my garden bounty of beets can't come too soon.

Betanin: the best-studied betalain
(do you notice the constant beta?
the beet is known formally as
Beta vulgaris)
Not only are beets good, but they're good for you. They may lower blood pressure and increase brain function thanks to their nitrates, which the body converts to the blood vessel dilator nitric oxide, improving circulation; these also boost athletic performance. Beets are rich in the plant alkaloid betaine and the B-vitamin folate, which together reduce blood levels of homocysteine (associated with atherosclerosis); betaine (found as well in spinach and quinoa) also helps reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver. As if that's not enough, beets are rich in betalains, a class of potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that may protect against common carcinogens. And the greens offer up vitamins K and A, while the beetroots themselves pack a good punch of C. Manganese, potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium. Really, what don't beets have?

Well, they do have a distressing side effect, if you're not ready for it: red urine and stools. That's thanks to the betalain pigments. Which we do thank (see above). So just be prepared.

When I went to the market to pick up some beets, avocado, red onion, and dill (which I could not find, so fennel will substitute) for the recipe, the young checker looked at the three red balls attached to the long green and red leaves and said, "Huh, so that's what a beet looks like?" Not exactly: the harvesters/bundlers had snipped off the long central root. But close.

Anyway, here's the recipe. Which I will have to finish tomorrow, owing to the cool-down part of the program. Instead, for dinner tonight (David is out rock 'n' rolling) I am having fresh full-grain bread with pickled herring. I'm pretty easy to please!

Beet Gazpacho

(serves 4)

3/4 lb. beets (4 medium beets, smaller than a tennis ball)
1/4 cup red or sweet onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves
3 small Turkish/Persian cucumbers, sliced
1/2 cup fresh dill
2 Tb sherry vinegar (plus more to taste)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh pepper
Garnishes: avocado, diced cucumber, diced beet, finely diced onion, chopped dill, baby nasturtium leaves, olive oil or yogurt of sour cream

1. Place beets in a medium pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer until fork tender all the way through about 45–60 minutes. Chill beets and their cooking liquid. (This step is good to do the night before making the soup.)

2. Once beets are cold, slip off their skins using your hands. Slice and place 3 of the 4 beets in a blender with 2 cups of the cold cooking liquid (or use ice water, or cold veggie stock). Add half of the chopped onion, the 2 garlic cloves, 2 of the sliced Turkish cucmbers, salt, pepper, vinegar, and about 2/3 of the fresh dill (saving some for garnish. Blend until very smooth. Taste and adjust salt and vinegar. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

3. Prep the garnishes. Finely dice remaining beet, cucumber, avocado, and chop the remaining dill. Pour chilled beet soup (the colder it is, the better) into bowls. Top with the garnishes. Optional: drizzle with a little olive oil or a swirl of yogurt or sour cream. Serve immediately.

Cooking time: 45+ minutes plus cooling-down time. Prep time: 20 minutes.

1 comment:

  1. How was the beet gazpacho? We have been eating "cold" for dinner here, too, as the summer heats up.