I don’t know why, but the color of red beets continues to excite me. And their flavor is good too, so here’s a quick Vitamix beet soup recipe. One of the great things about making soup with a Vitamix is that you can get it silky smooth without straining.
I did a side-by side comparison with simply cooked beets and a more complicated method, but the simple method was better so I will describe it first. See the end of the post for a description of the less tasty experiment.
I decided to speed up cooking the beets and onion by using our pressure cooker. I usually only use it to cook beans (for example for hummus), but it’s handy for vegetables as well. Previously I’ve oven-roasted beets in foil, but that can take an hour. Cutting up the beets makes them cook even faster, and since this is for a soup, we don’t need to keep the beets intact (usually it’s nice to leave the skin on to retain the juice for maximum flavor, but in this case, all the juice is going into the blender, so it doesn’t matter).
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion (yellow)
2 medium beets
½ cup water + more
salt to taste (¼ tsp or more)
garnish: yogurt or goat cheese and/or fresh herbs like mint or dill
Makes ~3 cups: 2 large servings or 4 medium.
Peel and then coarsely chop the onion and beets (½” by ½” sticks is good for the beets). Heat pressure cooker pot, add oil, sauté onions on medium-high heat for ~1 minute, then add beets and ½ cup water. Seal and bring to full 15 psi pressure. Reduce heat and cook 3 minutes at pressure, then quick release (with cold water in sink).
Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes, then transfer to blender. If you want a really thick soup, you don’t have to add any more water (at least with a Vitamix), but I would add at least ¼ cup of water. Blend on high until smooth, ~40 seconds. Salt to taste, then serve, garnish, and enjoy!
Many recipes use broth instead of water or add potatoes, but this recipe is quite good with just the beets and onion.
This soup is good both hot and cold. It goes well with some sourdough bread.
The less-tasty experiment: Browned Beets
While searching around for hints on pressure cooking beets I came across a carrot soup recipe that sounded interesting. If you add a little baking soda you can brown the carrots in a pressure cooker relatively quickly and develop interesting flavors (via the Maillard reaction). I also found some discussion of applying the same principle to onions, but much less discussion of beets.
I was unsure how the browned beets would come out, so I decided to blend up three soups: one 100% browned beets, one 100% lightly cooked, and one 50-50 mixture of the two. (I suspected that the mixture would have the best depth of flavor, but I wanted to test the full range of possibilities.)
I prepared the browned beets the same as above, but added 0.5% baking soda by weight, which came to just about a teaspoon. Then I cooked for 20 minutes at full pressure instead of the previous 3 minutes.
Not surprisingly, the beets came out of the pressure cooker more brown:
The browned beets had an interesting browned smell, whereas the lightly cooked ones smelled more like beets.
After blending I poured out the three mixtures:
I was surprised that blending brought the bright red color back to the browned beets. There was still a detectable difference in color, but it was much less pronounced than before blending. I regret that the lighting in the photo above is not perfectly uniform, but you can still see the slight difference in color.
The first bite of the browned beet soup was tasty. However, after subsequent bites a bitter aftertaste built up that was ultimately unappealing. Even in the 50-50 mixture, the bitterness was too much. The shorter-cooked non-browned beets were not only less bitter, but they also retained some pleasing fresh beet flavor that was lost in the browned beets.
I wondered if the browned bitterness was from the baking soda, so I added some lemon juice to try to neutralize it. The lemon juice was a nice addition, but the bitterness persisted.
It’s possible that I somehow overdid the browning, but the lightly cooked beets were so good that I think I will stick with light cooking in the future.