Recipe for chilled beet and tomato soup
When I think of beet soup, I think of borscht, one of the classics of eastern European and western Russian cooking. This beet soup is a lighter alternative, perfect for this time of year when, here in New England, the farm stands overflow with sweet, ripe tomatoes. I know it's cheating a bit, but I jump-started this soup with pre-cooked, peeled, ready-to-eat beets from my supermarket's produce department. I love roasting beets, and I don't mind the pink-stained fingers that come from peeling them, but honestly, for many uses including soups and salads, pre-cooked beets save time and mess in the kitchen. Trader Joe's sells these ready-to-eat beets, and now the little market in our town sells them, so I know they're becoming easier to find. The directions do explain how to start from scratch and roast the beets, too. This ruby-red soup, well balanced in flavor between the beets and tomatoes, needs to be served very cold; plan to make it in the morning so it has time to chill.
Chilled beet and tomato soup
Adapted from Good Tempered Food by Tamasin Day-Lewis, this recipe, which can be made vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock for chicken stock, serves 6.
1 lb small beets, pre-cooked and ready to eat, or fresh beets
5 cups chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium storebought, or vegetable stock
3 large ripe tomatoes, cored, halved, seeds squeezed out, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice, to taste
2/3 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp chopped chives
If using pre-cooked beets, chop roughly and set aside.
If you're using fresh beets, preheat the oven to 375°F. Scrub the beets and trim the stems down to one-half inch. Wrap the beets individually in foil, place on a baking sheet, and cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the beets, or until just tender when pierced with a knife tip. The beets will finish cooking in the soup, so take them out of the oven and unwrap the foil. When the beets are cool enough to handle, cut them into large chunks.
In a 3-quart or larger stock pot, heat the chicken or vegetable stock over high heat. When the stock begins to shimmer, add the beets and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes, until the tomatoes have begun to collapse. Remove the pot from heat, and puree with an immersion blender (or let the soup cool a bit, and puree in a blender in batches).
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place the soup in a container or bowl, covered, and refrigerate for at least two hours until well chilled. Just before serving, squeeze in the lemon juice, adjust with salt and pepper if needed, and ladle into soup bowls. Garnish each bowl with a small dollop of sour cream and freshly chopped chives.