I’ll admit, up until a couple of years ago I did not like beets. Whenever I tried them, I thought they tasted like dirt. I’ve since decided that the reason for this is that I was eating, well, dirt. But then I tried roasted (dirtless) beets, and I loved them! The key is peeling the beets rather than just scrubbing them, apparently. And roasting them really brings out their natural sweetness and gives them a nice soft texture. Mmmmm…
Beets are an amazing root vegetable. Their deep red pigment is used as a pink dye, and those red/purple phytochemicals — known as anthocyanins — are helpful cancer preventers. Beets are great raw and shredded on a salad, roasted with other root vegetables as a hot side dish, or roasted and chilled with goat cheese and pistachios.
Roasting beets is very simple. I really should do it more often! Just cut off the tops, peel the beets, cut them in half, and put them cut-side down in a baking dish with olive or coconut oil and a splash of water, plus any fresh herbs or other desired seasonings. Bake at 425 degrees for about an hour, or until a fork can easily pierce them.
Another way to cook beets is to steam them in the oven. I like this technique because you don’t have to peel the beets beforehand. The steam loosens the peels so you can easily rub them off after they are cooled. The key is adding about half a cup of water to the baking dish with the oil and covering it tightly with foil before putting it in the oven. I used this method in my beet soup recipe, which was adapted from Bon Appétit.
Caraway Beet Soup
- 6 medium beets (about 4 lb.), scrubbed and cut in half
- A few sprigs of fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves are good options)
- Salt and black pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 T. caraway seeds
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced (see photo)
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup unflavored/unsweetened nondairy milk (I used almond milk)
- 1 T. white balsamic vinegar
Cashew Cream (Garnish):
- 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked 30+ minutes in warm water
- Juice of half a lemon
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1/4 cup water, plus more to thin to desired consistency
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place the beets in a 13 x 9″ baking dish and add water, herbs, salt and pepper. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and steam in the oven 60-75 minutes until a fork easily pierces the beets. Let cool in covered pan, which helps loosen the skins. Rub off the skins with a paper towel or your fingers (if you want them to be stained pink!).
- Heat a splash of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add caraway seeds. Stirring, cook about 1 minute until seeds start to sizzle and dance around the pan. Add the onion, leek, and another splash of water to prevent the seeds from burning. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until vegetables are soft, about 7 minutes.
- Add the steamed beets and the 1/2 cup of water to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
- While the soup is simmering, combine the cashew cream ingredients in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and give the blender a quick rinse — no need to scrub it.
- Pour your nondairy milk into a measuring cup and add the Tablespoon of vinegar. This makes a healthy substitute for buttermilk.
- Carefully transfer the saucepan mixture to the blender, add the “buttermilk,” and blend until smooth. You may want to do this in two batches.
- Serve drizzled with cashew cream and topped with fresh herbs (thyme or dill) and cracked black pepper.
Enjoy this caraway beet soup as an appetizer or as a meal with a side salad!