Roasting Whole Beets

I emailed to say hello to a friend and received an invitation to lunch. At the table, attention centered around individual bowls of deep-red, clear soup with chunks of deeper-red beets floating around a dollop of creamy white yogurt. My friend’s husband eased into a distant memory: in the cold of winter near the mountains in the Middle East a street vendor unwraps unusually large red beets that had been slowly roasted and cuts them to sell to people waiting in line to mostly eat it right then and there. My friend acknowledged this memory that she too was a part of when I asked if she had thought about it while making the soup, she said no, that she had just made, Borscht, the Russian beet soup.

Here is a method to make beet soup inspired by Borscht:

Homemade bone broth

Beef or pork cut into bite-sized pieces

Beets

Crème fraiche or yogurt

Clean beets, wrap them whole in aluminum foil and roast at 375˚F until fork tender; let them cool before unwrapping foil and peeling skin, followed by cutting into chunks. Brown meat pieces in a pan before braising them in the homemade bone broth. Once the meat is cooked and tender, add roasted beets to the broth mixture, bring to a boil and serve in bowls with a dollop of crème fraiche or yogurt. A vegetarian version can be made with vegetable stock.

I’ve cooked beets, I’ve sautéed and roasted them as part of many dishes, including making beet soup, but they were not the focus of the dish or the meal. They weren’t while making it now either given the time shared with the bones and meat. However, the urge to make this dish now arose from the urge to look for large beets to roast whole and to roast slow. Something new, slightly new, about an otherwise familiar vegetable brought to attention by a host's memory that only popped up in conversation at the table but not when the dish was being made.

 

 

7 thoughts on “Roasting Whole Beets

  1. Sarah Copeland

    Hi Bala. I once worked with a Russian Chef who suggested not to roast the beets as he felt borscht is supposed to be sour and roasting would make the beets too sweet. He had some kind of fermented beet juice concoction that he added to enhance the soup’s tang. I wish I knew more about that!

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Post author

      Hi Sarah,

      I agree that Borscht is sour (I usually use lemon juice) and that beets are not roasted for this soup for the sweetness (I usually don't). However, the soup in the blog as I mention only draws inspiration from Borscht in that the beets were used to make soup; the focus was to roast beets and then use it in a food preparation. The hostess of the lunch followed the traditional recipe as well but the mention of roasted beets during conversation made me want to try the version in the blog.

      I hope you've been well.

      Reply
    2. Roxa

      Actually, that "fermented beet concoction" was also recommended by a Russian friend. You can buy it in a Russian grocery store--when you find one!

      Reply
  2. Roxa

    Bala, I loved reading this! Borscht is one of those "folkloric" soups. I've always imagined Russain women in heavily layered and embroidered clothes gathering what's at hand to create a hearty and healthy soup. What's at hand must have included beets and cabbage, onions and parsnips, carrots? Certainly root vegetables were simmered in a pot of water with salt and pepper, and seasoned at the end with a dash of honey and vinegar or lemons, nowadays. It is often served with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream as Bala wrote. It is up to the cook to include all the vegetables or to strain them out or to puree them in a blender. Either result should make one dance the Kalinka!!!

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Post author

      I like how your imagination has enriched the feel of this soup. To cook with what is at hand and then to dance the Kalinka sounds wonderful! Thank you.

      Reply

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