Roasted Beet and Winter Vegetable soup

I’ve been feeling re-inspired by our winter garden lately. Maybe it is because spring arrives early in Santa Barbara. Or because I’ve been planting seeds and watching them pop up, always amazed at the wonders of good soil and water. Whatever it is, I get a LOT of delight out of wandering my gardens every morning, watering and plucking out weeds. And daydreaming about what dishes I will make with its abundance…

I’ve noticed for awhile that I had beets that needed to be pulled. But I don’t like to pull them until just before I eat them, and since my favorite way to eat beets is to roast them, and that is a long-ish commitment (clean, roast ~1hr, peel off skins, slice), I’ve just been putting it off. But I finally went for it – and got 4 large Detroit reds and 2 Golden beets for my efforts, that translated into two nights worth of dinner.

I am a huge proponent of using the entire beet, from root to stem to leaves. The leaves do have an earthy flavor that would probably be a little deterring for people who never eat green leafy vegetables. But if you’ve grown an affinity for spinach or kale, then the step to beet greens isn’t much further. In my cooking, I freely substitute beet greens, chard, kale, and spinach for each other – whether it be quiche, soups, pasta sauce, scrambled eggs, or green smoothies. I try to stuff leafy greens into anything I can, and I can’t think of one instance where it didn’t work out (most of the time it goes un-noticed).

I’ve chopped up the stems before and sauteed them like celery or onions, but this time I decided to roast the stems. I had some fennel leftover from the gigantic bulb I harvested earlier in the week, and I also couldn’t resist pulling up a few carrots and roasting them too. I sauteed the beet greens in a bit of garlic and oil until they just wilted, then squeezed on some lemon and salt.

All of that work went into a Monday night dinner of salad with roasted beets and fennel, with a side of beet greens and crusty bread. But the second dinner came after a wet and cold bike ride home in the rain (I checked the weather beforehand and it said NOTHING about rain!), and I was craving hot soup. So I decided to experiment with making a roasted beet (and assorted vegetables) soup. From other pureed soups I’ve made, I was fairly sure that all I needed to do was saute an onion and some garlic, heat the roasted vegetables, add stock and puree. And I was happy with the result, although I think if the greens had been left out it would have been even silkier, and the color from the beets that much more vibrant. But I wasn’t going for aesthetics – I wanted warm and healthy. And that is exactly what I got! Somehow I managed to not take a single picture of this creation – but in truth it wasn’t all that pretty (kind of a muddy maroon color).

Roasted Beet and Vegetable soup

A collection of roasted vegetables – I used beets, fennel, carrots, and sauteed beet greens. But the fennel and carrots could easily be left out, and other vegetables added in.

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-3 cups vegetable stock

handful fresh herbs – I used oregano, thyme, and marjoram

Squeeze of lemon or orange

Saute onion over medium heat. Saute garlic for 1 minute, then add in the chopped roasted vegetables and beet greens. Heat, add in 1 cup stock. Turn off heat and use an immersion blender to smooth it out. Add more stock as necessary until it reaches desired consistency (I pureed longer than I thought I needed to and could tell it was that much less chunky). Reheat until warm. Top with either sour cream, or a bit of goat cheese. I broiled ciabatta slices with goat cheese spread on top!


Green Drinks

We have a new addition to our kitchen family. Some of you have probably heard of it, and the transformative powers it can have over your kitchen. All the rumors are definitely true. The Vita-mix will change your life!

I’m still not quite sure how it happened, that my husband was the one to buy it. But since its arrival, it gets at least daily use. Usually at least 2-3 times. I can’t tell you how quick the frozen bananas disappear around here these days. Even before the Vita-mix came around, my husband loved making smoothies with our blender. And recently we’ve been getting into the morning green smoothie routine. A regular blender works okay for these – but the Vita-mix turns smoothies into the consistency of silk.

For those of you who have never heard of green smoothies (and I was right there with you up until a few months ago), the basic premise is to blend up a bunch of green vegetables, sometimes with fruit added, and drink it all down. Before the skeptic in you says, “EW that is so gross, drinking vegetables?!!” just keep reading…

Leafy green vegetables really are the most essential part of a healthy diet, and blending them helps to break down their fibrous nature and make them easier to digest. If the thought of drinking spinach or kale makes you flinch, try this: blend 1-2 frozen bananas (or bananas and ice) with a bit of cocoa powder and a handful of spinach. Hate the taste of bananas? Blend frozen berries with those greens. Once you realize how not-scary these smoothies are (and how much energy you have afterwards!), start experimenting with different combinations.

What I love the most about our new green smoothie routine is that it involves walking around the garden, picking the greens we want, and then putting them straight into the blender. How much fresher could it possibly get? I know some of you are into green smoothies… could you share your favorite combinations?

Green Smoothie

1 bunch chard or kale

2-3 celery stalks, leaves removed

Sm bunch parsley (optional)

1/2 lemon or 1 lime squeezed

1 apple, sliced

1-2 frozen bananas

Frozen berries

Any other fruits or veggies that you think might be good

Layer ingredients in blender with liquids and softer foods on the bottom. Blend and serve!