I find that most people either love or hate beets and if you’re in the former group this gloriously coloured chilled soup will fast become a summer favourite. If you’re in the latter… perhaps it just might change your mind on how you feel about them. Who knows…? You just might grow to love ’em!
Other than listing off the health benefits of beets perhaps telling you that they’re popular in Italy might help convince you! The first time I discovered them pre-cooked and every so nicely, conveniently cryovaced was in a small grocery shop in Rome. Rome! In fact, they’re so readily available, I’ve also found them in a smaller places, such as the quaint village of Fiesole perched majestically in the hills just north of Florence.
Just look at those colours!!! How can you not freak out, and here’s even more ammunition: beets are high in vitamin C, and have essential minerals like potassium and manganese. They’d certainly contribute to the saying… “eat the rainbow!”
It’s taken some time, and some searching and I finally did manage to locate them here in Toronto, not in the Polish ‘hood as I thought I might, but, at the mecca of Italian food shopping that is Lady York Foods, right here in Toronto on Dufferin Street.
This soup comes together very fast, and in fact can be done in two parts, cooking the soup one day and finishing it the next. Tangy buttermilk pairs deliciously with sweet & savoury beets turning it into what I can only call a killer combo. Fantastic to serve on a hot summer day, this would certainly add some wow factor to your table~
There is only one, ok a few words of caution… for goodness sake, mind the splatters – unless you really do want to hose down your kitchen afterwards! Like all colourful & beautiful things from mother nature, their gloriousness will stain so avoid a white apron and clean up as you go!
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Large pinch of Kosher salt
- Large pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 lbs. beets, pre-cooked if you can find them (*see below if using fresh raw beets) and diced/cut into approx 1” pieces
- 2 cups chicken stock (use vegetable stock and use all olive oil to keep it vegetarian)
- 1 cup water, approx. (you need just enough liquid to cover the beets while cooking)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar (approx. sometimes beets are sweet/sometimes not so much)
- 1 - 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, added after beets are cooked & pureed
- Put a large pot on medium heat; when hot add the oil & butter. Add the diced onion, the pinch of salt & pepper and cook, stirring occasionally over medium heat for about 5 minutes, to soften the onions. Add garlic and cook for approx. 1 minute - the aroma will waft up to greet you!
- Turn the heat to high and carefully add the beets, stock, water, salt & pepper. After it comes to a boil, turn the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes, just for the flavours to come together. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar. Taste to adjust the seasoning (salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar - adjusting to your taste).
- Wearing rubber gloves, wash peel and trim the beets, carefully and on a surface that won’t stain. I cover my big wooden cutting board with a clear plastic sheet/cover that I also use for meat - it then goes in the sink for easy clean up!
- Increase the cooking time to approx. 30 minutes, or until the beets are soft.
- Let the soup cool. Set 1/2 cup or so of beets aside for garnish, then purée using your favourite method: blender, stick blender, etc and you’ll end up with a gloriously coloured & thick beet purée that you’ll add buttermilk to. (You could even pop it in the fridge and finish it the next day!
- Use a ratio of 2:1 beets to buttermilk - so for each cup of beet purée you’ll add 1/2 cup buttermilk.
- To serve traditionally: drizzle with buttermilk and top with dill sprigs & cracked pepper. Or, shake things up and top with a small spoon of the cooked beets that you didn’t purée, a dollop of sour cream, some shredded fresh basil, a few drops of extra virgin olive oil & freshly ground pepper.
- *Best tip: mind the splatters - otherwise you might have to hose down your kitchen after making this delicious warm weather soup~