Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Roasted Beet and Potato Borscht

I've never cared much for beets. Since my parents were children of the poorly-cooked vegetables of the 1950s, I was not subjected to many of the most-feared vegetables of childhood like Brussels sprouts and beets. I was never a horribly picky kid, scarfing down carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, green beans, and sugar snap peas with much aplomb, coming to adulthood with an ever-growing palate. Now that I'm an adult, I'm happy to revisit these much-maligned vegetables. I'll confess I've given away most of my CSA beets these past few years, overwhelmed with so many other root vegetables that I didn't have the time or inclination to experiment too much with something that I only had a passing interest in. But this year was the year I finally tackled the beet challenge! As I had suspected, the key to making me adore this vegetable was roasting it. Roasting takes beets from tasting like, quite frankly, dirt, to a sweet and earthy treat. That caramelization forms most of the flavor base, played up with a splash of vinegar and handful of fresh thyme. I'm glad this was one of the recipes I kicked off 2013 with - if it's any indication of my culinary destiny for the year, it'll be organic, local, healthy, and full of flavor.

Roasted Beet and Potato Borscht
serves 4

2 pounds red beets, scrubbed, peeled, and diced medium
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and diced medium
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
3 to 5 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
5 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth or water
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
Sour cream, (optional)
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Thinly sliced scallion greens (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, toss together beets, potatoes, shallots, thyme, and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and roast until beets and potatoes are cooked through, about 45 minutes.

2. Discard thyme. Add vegetables to a medium pot, along with broth. Bring to a simmer over medium-high. With a potato masher or back of a wooden spoon, mash some vegetables until soup is thick and chunky. Stir in vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, top with sour cream, parsley, and scallion greens, if desired.

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