Cold Beet Soup with Sour Cream, Cucumber & Dill

Cold Beet Soup with Sour Cream, Cucumber & Dill
Pity the poor overlooked beet. Maybe it’s the unfortunate legacy of scary childhood memories of canned boiled or pickled beets – a form of both beet and child abuse. Treated correctly, beets are both sweet and sexy — with a crimson color unmatched in the culinary spectrum. I am a strong advocate of soups – cold or hot — as the ideal do ahead meal starter. This cold soup is simple to make – virtually fat-free but for the sour cream garnish that you could skip (though I think that would be a mistake) and gorgeous. As is often the case in working with beets, you will add some vinegar — here red wine vinegar — to balance the natural sweetness of the beets and add a little complexity to the flavor.

Do ahead Soup may be made up to five days ahead and stored in refrigerator.

2 cups sliced sweet onion
2 pounds beets, trimmed, peeled and cut into roughly uniform chunks
3-4 cloves garlic
3 cups vegetable or corn stock or water
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For Garnish
1/2 cup small cubed cucumber
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
3 ounces sour cream

1. Combine in pot over moderate heat, onion, beets, garlic and stock or water. Bring to simmer and cook about 50 minutes until beets very soft. Off heat and allow to cool.
2. Transfer beets, onions and garlic mixture and cooking liquid to blender. Add red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Blend until very smooth. Pour into bowl. Chill until very cold — at least 3-4 hours. You want soup to be quite thick, but pourable. Add more liquid if too thick. Water is fine to add. Taste for vinegar. Beets are variable in their sweetness and you definitely want to taste a little background vinegar to counter beets natural sweetness. Before serving, adjust salt and pepper as things need more seasoning when cold.
3. To serve, pour soup into bowls. Place a small mound on cubed cucumbers in center. Top with dollop of sour cream. Lightly sprinkle dill.

Yield About 6 cups to serve 6.
Note: This is a rich soup by virtue of the beets. A cup per person is enough, though by all means if you have four guests, you could serve 1 1/2 cups — or stick with a cup each and save the rest for yourself.

This is a very simple soup to make and virtually fat-free but for the sour cream garnish that you could skip — although I wouldn’t. It’s just not that much sour cream.

Trim ends of beef with knife and peel.

Cutting beets into roughly uniform sizes enables them to cook more quickly and uniformly.

Ready to go — beets, sliced onions, garlic cloves and stock. I used corn stock though you can use any vegetable stock or water.

Place everything in a pot over moderate heat, bring to simmer and reduce heat to maintain a gentle cooking. You want to be careful not to cook the liquid away as you will need this to thin the soup. Add back water if the you seem to have cooked too much away. You at least want to sure the beets, etc. remain covered with liquid.  If it turns out that you don’t have enough liquid left at the end of the cooking to get a thin enough soup you can always add some water to soup after pureeing it in blender.

It will take about 50 minutes for the beets to cook through. Off heat and allow mixture to cool somewhat as it is just safer not to have hot liquid when you blend to avoid getting splattered with hot liquid.

Pour everything into blender adding red wine vinegar , salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. A food processor will not create the creamy smoothness of a blender, but if that’s is all you have, it will be OK.

The soup should be quite thick — though easily pourable. You want it thick enough to “support” the garnish of cucumbers and sour cream.  Refrigerate 3-4 hours until soup is very cold. I needed my soup sooner so I placed it in the freezer and occasionally stirred. You could also place soup in its bowl into a “water bath” — that is, another bowl with ice and water. It helps to stir occasionally.

To make little cucumber cubes, begin by peeling cucumber, cutting in half mengthwise and scraping out seeds with a spoon.

Cut cucumbers into thin and fairly uniform strips. (As I am a bit compulsive, I trimmed the thick portion on the left side of the cucumber lying on top above.) Line strips up in a tight row.

Cut across strips to create cubes. I gave my cubes an additional dice as they still seemed too large. There will certainly be variation in the size of your cubes.

Ideally lay out your soup bowls and pour equal portions into each bowl. This soup is quite rich — not because it has any rich ingredients but beets but their nature have a rich mouth feel. So keep your portion fairly small — a cup or a bit more than a cup. Place a small mound of cucumbers in center, top with dollop of sour cream and sprinkle coarsely chopped dill in a circle around center garnish.

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