I thought I never liked beets. The only beets I knew from childhood were pickled beets (I honestly didn’t know they came any other way). Or maybe I was traumatized by beets.
Here’s how it happened. We had a metal food storage cabinet in our kitchen where we kept canned goods and most other foods. One afternoon my sister Jackie opened the cabinet to look for a snack, hanging on the handles, and the whole cabinet pitched slightly forward. Jars of pickled beets smashed to the floor, and there stood Jackie, arms outstretched, screaming, covered with red fluid. It was like the movie “Carrie.” I jumped out of my skin, too, but she was little and had thought all the broken glass meant she was covered with blood. She wasn’t even cut; the beet juice had splashed all over her.
So as an adult when I was at a party, I took an appetizer off of a tray, thinking how clever it was that they had roasted chunks of purple potatoes. It was delicious. I commented on it and someone said, “That’s not a potato, that’s a beet.”
Cautiously I began to eat beets–only roasted, mind you, not the evil pickled kind. Once I moved to Chicago, I found “golden beets” in the grocery store. I read about them on my phone right there at the store and found they were “milder” than red beets. They do have a different taste, even when roasted, and are sometimes even almost orange in color.
Golden beets are one of my go-to side dishes for entertaining, since they only need to be roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper and still taste like something that has a secret recipe.
This long winter of 2013-2014 I gave up on northern Illinois having a single nice day. So while it snowed, then dipped below zero, then snowed again, rinse and repeat ad nauseum, I experimented in the kitchen and came up with this hearty, thick, delicious soup that reminds me in texture of vichyssoise.
Roasted Golden Beet Soup
3-4 medium golden beets, scrubbed
3-4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
1 rutabaga, peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup whole milk
½ cup half-and-half
optional: ½ cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Chop beets, potatoes and rutabaga into bite-sized chunks. In a large bowl, mix vegetables, olive oil, and Herbes de Provence. Stir thoroughly. Spread onto a large rimmed baking sheet, in a single layer, and bake on middle rack of oven for 45 min. Check about halfway through cooking time and flip the vegetables as best as possible.
Remove from oven when finished and let cool for at 10 min. Put chicken broth and milk in a blender and add the vegetables. Process until smooth. Add half-and-half and blend till mixed. Pour the mixture into a saucepan or soup pan and return to stove on medium heat till hot. Serve topped with sliced almonds, if desired.