Right now the farmer's market is a husk of its summer full-harvest self, which is unsurprising but a little discouraging. It seems like the holidays were this huge threshold over which vegetables could not leap! Now I go to the farmer's market not only to find half the booths totally gone but also all the hardcore winter people shutting down by 1:30 instead of the usual four. Sad!
However, among those booths I do continually find many, many root vegetables. If you want turnips and rutabagas, now is the time for turnips and rutabagas, let me tell you. So! Now I come home regularly with two bunches of organic winter greens, a massive amount of mushrooms, a dozen eggs, NO BREAD (since apparently the bakery people are only stocking half their normal amount such that it is always gone by the time I get my lazy ass there), and a whack of beets. Then, along with the potatoes and yes actual turnips currently in my vegetable drawer, I have a full root vegetable component, available for exciting endeavours like BEET SOUP.
Oh yeah! BEET SOUP!
Beet soup will stain your shirt. I'm just saying. Remember to take off anything bright white before cooking. However, I find it worth it.
optional greens/herbs (I used sorrel from the windowsill)
also optional cream cheese (due to current obsession)
a stick blender!
Ok! How did I make this again?
Right. If you don't have any veg broth, start with that. I just filled a pan halfway with water, dumped in many veg scraps from the stockpile in the freezer, and simmered it for about ten minutes. Making food out of trash represent! Yay!
In a different pan, warm some olive oil. Trim and dice some onion, garlic, or shallot. I think I used a shallot for this, but I don't really remember. Any of the above! It is fine! Throw trimmings (as least the ones that aren't totally crusted with dirt, as mine often are due to aforementioned farmer's market) into the pot of broth.
Let the onion/etc soften on medium while you go find your beets. I think I used three fairly small beets, which provided me with more than enough soup for my own nice lunch. So. Scrub the heck out of your beets under the faucet. Really get that mud off! Do it! Trim off the stem scars and the tails, then peel the beets. Put your freshly scrubbed beet peels directly into your broth pot! Yes! Cut the beets themselves in half, slice them into reasonably thin slices, and dump them in the onion pan. Add a pinch of salt, stir things up, and let everything cook together and get awesome for five minutes or so.
Now! Your broth should be bright RED, especially if you put in yellow onion peels or rainbow chard stems to totally bolster the red quality. It is ready to go! So strain your broth, putting all the liquid into the onion and beet pot. (The scraps left over are now compost.) Hopefully you'll have enough broth to totally cover your beets; if not, add water to cover. It's fine.
Now all you have to do is let the resulting red mass simmer until the beets are done. This will depend on the thickness of your slices; I'd expect about 15 minutes for thin slices, longer for thicker ones. Cover the pot and reduce the heat so no accidental bright red beet juice boils over everywhere.
When your beets are fork-tender, you are done. Pull the pot off the heat and let it cool for a minute or two while you find the stick blender. Of course if you desire you can eat it as is! I, however, find the pureed soup more to my taste. So. Puree (or not) to your liking, salt sparingly and pepper to high hell, and voila! You have a massive single serving or two more ordinary-sized servings of BEET SOUP.
Eating: because I am obsessed with cream cheese lately, and because cream cheese and beets play together so well, I put a big chunk of cream cheese in the bottom of my bowl and ladled the soup over it. Then I cut up a little bit of sorrel from the windowsill plant and strewed it semi-artfully over the top. Sorrel is pretty lemony and tart: awesome! You can clearly use parsley or spinach or chard or whatever you want, though. Finish your bowl off with another big grind of pepper and a big squeeze of lemon, especially if your sorrel situation is more normal (i.e. you have NONE of it whatsoever).
Now eat it! If you do the cream cheese trick the soup will make it all melty so you can stir everything together into bright pink slurry. I also recommend toast. Beet soup!