For winter, there's no beating a steaming bowl of hot beet soup (borscht). But it's too heavy and hot for summer. But cold beet soup, lightened with cucumber, now that's perfect summer food and made for a great light vegetarian supper -- and for the record, is my contribution to Festa Al Fresco 2007, a virtual patio party, hosted again this year by Cream Puffs in Venice and La Mia Cucina.
Once the beets were cooked, something easy to do entirely unattended, the soup itself made up in a flash. The inspiring recipe suggested waiting 24 hours to serve, but I thought it was fine the first night but yes, it improved some after the flavors had a chance to meld.
TOO MUCH SOUR CREAM? The inspiring recipe called for a full 16 ounces of sour cream, which made me wonder if it would taste like big spoonfuls of, well, sour cream. It didn't. The milk thins it down, plus the raw garlic really comes through, as does the beet flavor.
BEETS, MOTHER NATURE'S FAST FOOD I like to cook cook beets on the stove in the summer, when it's too hot to run the oven. Think about cooking extra beets, for if you check the beet recipes, you'll see that many can be made in just a few minutes once the beets are cooked, just look for the symbol.
FROM THE RECIPE ARCHIVES Looking for another cold soup recipe? There's a chilled carrot soup with honey, or Sengalese Soup, with shrimp, honey and corn or better yet, this unusual fruity gazpacho.
A YEAR AGO THIS WEEK It must be cold-soup weather because a year ago this week, I posted three cold soups in a row -- a potato and leek vichyssoise, an asparagus soup with a touch of orange and this gorgeous traditional gazpacho
Time to table: 25 minutes if beets are precooked, otherwise 2 hours (or 24 hours if chilling overnight)
Makes 7 cups
COOK THE BEETS
1 pound beets
Fill a large pot with water enough to cover the beets by at least an inch. Cover and turn on heat to bring to a boil. Trim off the greens, leaving about 1 inch of stub. Wash well but don't scrub hard, or snip off the tap root, otherwise beet flavor will leach out during cooking. Add the beets to the pot and continue bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to a fast simmer and cook til a knife can be inserted without resistance. The time varies widely - these took 1 1/4 hours. Drain into a colander and let cool til cool enough to handle. Slip a small knife under the skin and slip off skins. Dice small.
MAKE THE SOUP
1/2 an English cucumber, peeled and cut in chunks (you'll use the other half too)
1 - 2 cloves garlic
1 cup whole milk (skim would likely work too)
16 ounces sour cream (I indulged in full fat, to my taste, it wasn't overly rich)
Salt & pepper to taste
Cooked beet, diced small
1/2 an English cucumber, peeled and diced small
Chive for garnish
Parsley for garnish (next time I'll skip this)
In the blender, whiz the English cucumber, garlic and about half the milk, til smooth. Add the remaining milk and continue whizzing. Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in the sour cream and season to taste. Stir in the beet and cucumber. If you like, refrigerate for 24 hours before serving. Spoon soup into bowls, top with chive and/or parsley.
HOW MANY CALORIES, CARBS & WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS IN BEETS
Nutrition Information Per 1/4 pound of raw beet: Per Serving: 49 Cal (3% from Fat, 14% from Protein, 83% from Carb); 2 g Protein; 0 g Tot Fat; 0 g Sat Fat; 0 g Mono Fat; 11 g Carb; 3 g Fiber; NetCarb8; 8 g Sugar; 18 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 88 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 0 points
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