Beet, Leek & Fennel Soup

March 19, 2011

A cool, rainy weekend, and our NCAA basketball tourney brackets are freely bleeding with early round exits. So, seems an ideal day for an earthy, crimson soup.

Roasting the beets teases out their natural sugars, and the wispy green fennel fronds lightly strewn over a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream breaks the frank red monotony.


6 medium red beets
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

3 medium leeks, rinsed, dried and thinly sliced
1/4 t fennel seeds
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced, reserving fronds for garnish
1/4 C water
3 C chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1 T freshly squeezed orange juice
1 T red wine vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Fennel fronds
Crème fraîche or sour cream

Preheat oven to 400 F

Trim ends off beets and rinse. Arrange them in a baking dish, lightly drizzle the beets with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Pour a small amount of water in the dish and cover tightly with foil. Roast until cooked through, about 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of the beets. They are done when easily pierced with a fork. Cool, then peel beets. Cut a single beet into 1″ matchsticks for garnish and chop the remaining beets.

In a large heavy saucepan heat oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and cook leeks with fennel seeds, stirring, until softened, about 15 minutes. Add sliced fennel and water and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until fennel is very soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in chopped beets, broth, bay leaf, thyme sprig, orange juice and red wine vinegar. Simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf and thyme sprig. In a food processor or blender purée soup in batches, transferring it as puréed to another saucepan. Gently heat in saucepan and salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with beet matchsticks, crème fraîche or sour cream and fennel fronds.

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