In one of my all-time favorite books, Jitterbug Perfume, the brilliant author Tom Robbins gives excellent advice when he writes, “Breathe properly. Stay curious. And eat your beets.” Beets play a huge role in Jitterbug Perfume, which is why this post is dedicated to Kudra & Alobar.
I have always loved beets of all kinds, not just for their deep earthy sweetness and nutrient density, but also aesthetically. It’s hard to deny their beauty: deep crimson wine red, sunny golden, or candy cane striped – they are absolute jewels.
With autumn on the tail-end of its season, there are still a few hearty vegetables holding strong in the local gardens and beets are what I am cherishing the most right now. In this post I am featuring two recipes showcasing the almighty beet.
The first recipe is for a gorgeous beet soup developed a few years ago for a Valentine’s Day tasting menu. The color of this soup is outstanding, especially with the contrasting balsamic reduction, orange creme fraiche, candied zest, and thyme. Of course, you can do without the fancy garnishes and just add a dollop of sour cream and a splash of balsamic, and maybe some fresh basil if you have some. It is a simple recipe that can be dressed up as much or as little as you like.
Credit for this fantastic shoot (along with most of the food photography on this site) goes to my dear friend, Regan Stiegmann, who is beyond impressive and a true renaissance woman. Not only is she an aspiring Preventive and Lifestyle Medicine physician in her first year of residency at Columbus Regional Health, and a Captain in the U.S. Air Force but she is also a passionate photographer, lover of nature, world traveler, fellow Jitterbug Perfume fan, and appreciator of quality food. Being raised in Denver with a half-acre backyard garden, she learned the values of sustainable food gardening with her family, which has given her an appreciation for local, organic foods. In fact, she highlights nutrient dense foods as a key foundation in her approach to health. She is adamant about educating her patients about consuming whole foods as an integral part of healthy living. We both agree with Hippocrates when he wisely said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” and are currently envisioning a variety of professional collaborations for the near future. She is the artist behind these photos and I am forever grateful for her enthusiasm, talent, and encouragement, as well as to her family for opening their beautiful kitchen and garden to our photography sessions.
Red Beet Soup
Makes 1 quart – serves 3-4
- 3 medium-sized red beets
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (I prefer sunflower or coconut)
- 1 large leek, trimmed and sliced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 1/2 cups water or broth
- 1 orange
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- Fresh thyme
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Place beets in baking dish and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and roast for 45 minutes. Let cool with foil cover until cool enough to handle. Trim off ends, remove skin, and cut into large cubes. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, use a citrus zester (or sharp knife) to remove the zest from the orange in long strips. Set half of the zest aside and mince the other half and set aside in a separate dish.
- FOR THE ZEST: In a small saucepan, add 1/4 cup water and sugar and bring to a boil. Add long zest strips, and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Transfer to a parchment or wax paper-lined plate to cool. Be sure to separate into small clumps.
- FOR THE ORANGE CREME FRAICHE: Mix the minced zest with the creme fraiche and set aside.
- FOR THE GLAZE: Bring balsamic vinegar to a boil then turn to low simmer for about 10 minutes until syrupy. Let cool.
- In a medium-sized pot, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add sliced leeks and turn temperature to low. Let cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes until soft. Add garlic and let cook for another few minutes.
- Add roasted beets, turn heat to high, and add the juice from the orange.
- Add broth or water, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil, turn heat to medium and let simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove bay leaf and puree soup until smooth. Return to pot and season with salt and pepper.
- Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of orange creme fraiche, balsamic glaze, candied zest, and fresh thyme.
The second recipe is for a delicious and versatile beet green salsa verde that pairs amazingly with grilled or roasted vegetables (beets, obviously), fish, chicken, and steak. The traditional Italian salsa verde literally translates to “green sauce” made from a variety of coarsely processed herbs, vinegar, and olive oil. Mexican salsa verde incorporates tomatillos, and French sauce verte may include anchovies and capers. This recipe was developed when I was invited to cater the Denver Botanic Gardens’ Farm to Fork Dinner this summer. I was given a huge bounty from the garden with which to create several vegetable dishes. There were pounds and pounds of beets and I wanted to find an interesting way to utilize both the root and the greens in one dish. Instead of sautéing the beet greens or using them raw in a salad, I deciding to make a beet green salsa verde with plenty of garlic, lime juice, cilantro, and a snap of jalapeño. This recipe was a huge hit at the farm dinner and the recipe was later shared in the CSA newsletter. As mentioned before, this sauce goes with everything and is incredibly easy to make. Enjoy!
Beet Green Salsa Verde
Makes about 1 quart
- 1 bunch beet greens, washed thoroughly and trimmed
- 1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro plus more for garnish
- 1/2 jalapeño or serrano pepper, seeds and stem removed (this can be adjusted to your preferred heat level), sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 limes plus more for garnish
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup pepitas
- Toast pepitas in a small dry pan over medium heat, tossing frequently until fragrant and golden brown. Set aside.
- Place coarsely chopped greens, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, the zest and juice of the limes, and vinegar in a food processor.
- Process until desired consistency. You can opt for a chunkier relish or a finer pesto texture, I shoot for something in between.
- Season with salt and more lime juice or vinegar to taste.
- Spoon over roasted vegetables, chicken, steak, fish, or serve as a dip for crudite or fresh bread.
- Garnish with sprigs of cilantro, lime wedges, and a sprinkle of toasted pepitas.
Remember…Breathe properly. Stay curious. And eat your beets!