The indexing project for The Polar Times has really taken over my life right now–which is not unexpected–but it does have its problems. I think any work where there is a deadline does that, but I need to get something for quick meals around here, and it has to meet my “hot weather” requirements!
Looking over the Durham Farmers’ market this last week I was seeing lots of lovely beets–and with the weather warming up (from my point of view getting hot!) the cold beet soup came to mind as something that would be pretty easy, keep well, and is great in hot weather.
To prepare the beets for cooking, I cut off the tops (greens) a bit above where they attach to the root; some of the greens will go into the soup, but if there are extras, they are good as a vegetable, or an omelette filling.
Cutting the tops and leaving about an inch of the stems will keep the beets from bleeding and losing flavor. If there is a slender root tip attached, I leave that on too. Just scrub the beets with a fairly soft vegetable brush so that the skin is not broken–again, prevents bleeding.
No matter how you cook them, you can tell they are done when they pierce easily with the tip of a small paring knife. When done, the skins will slip off easily. You can cook them a number of ways–One of my favorite ways is to roast them: well and good if it is a cool day but if it is not and you don’t want the oven on for an hour or so, then consider steaming (I use my rice cooker) or microwaving them (see below). Test for doneness as above.
Roasting: For four medium-large (about 6 ounce) beets, rub them with oil, place them in a covered casserole or wrap in foil and bake at 400° for about 1-1 ½ hours.. Cool them and then trim off the stems, roots and peel.
Steaming: Place the beets over simmering water and steam for about 1 hour, or until done. Cool, trim and peel. Baby beets will take about 20 minutes. I sometimes do this using my rice cooker.
Microwave: For the size beets mentioned above, put the unpeeled beets in a microwave-safe dish with a lid or cover tightly with plastic wrap. Cook on high for 8 minutes and let rest for 5 minutes without uncovering. Turn the beets microwave for 3 minutes on high and let stand again without removing the cover for 10 minutes. Test for doneness with a small paring knife. If they still offer some resistance to the knife, cover them again and microwave for an additional 3 minutes. Cool, peel and go ahead with the recipe.
Grilling: After peeling, slice medium raw beets about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, brush with oil and grill until tender. Very intense flavor. (I’ve not used grilled beets in the cold soup; I might if I ever have any “leftover” grilled beets, or manage to cook extras.)
Beet greens: Don’t forget the greens that you trimmed off before you cooked the roots! Some will go into the soup, but there might be more than you need or that. Stem them like you would spinach–they are edible too. If the stems are very large, cook them a bit before you put in the leaves. They are excellent eating too. All they need is a quick braising, boiling, or steaming. You can substitute beet greens in any recipe calling for chard.