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.

BEET, LEEK & FENNEL SOUP

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

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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Fear always springs from ignorance.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Enough already Sarah. She has gone from that Armani adorned, always ingénue and sometimes buffoonish, vice presidential candidate to now become the self anointed Delphic Oracle of conservatism. The former governor seems to envision her “new life” bespectacled, clad in khaki and jodfers, rough riding over Capitol Hill while spouting uninformed rhetoric on Twitter and Facebook.

On a recent Facebook page, Mrs. Palin entered this patently absurd comment:

“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.”

Her harangue was at best, ignorance followed by paranoic rant—and at worst, an outright, mean-spirited lie. In typical fear mongering fashion, Mrs. Palin baselessly asserted that the health care plan proposed before Congress contains a provision providing for bureaucratic death squads to kill off the less productive members of society. Nowhere in any proposed health care legislation is there any such language, notion or innuendo. She should recant her outlandish misrepresentations which were aimed at poisoning a remedial bill meant to serve our citizens’ health care and well-being—seemingly for the selfish purpose of enhancing her political base. Don’t hold your breath because to some “never disavow, never apologize, never explain” is a lifelong mantra.

Some advice, Sarah: first read and comprehend, then attempt to grasp the issues, and finally talk openly (rationally and with proper use of your cradle language). Then, maybe we can have vigorous, informed and civil debate that addresses the true issues at hand.

As Ronald Reagan, Jr., wryly remarked, “Sarah Palin only needs a red rubber nose and some exploding shoes and she could go work for Barnum and Bailey. The fact that we give this clown any time at all is shocking and silly and a little bit stupid.”

A footnote—Urban Dictionary now has an entry for “Palinize”: To smear or mock someone using falsehoods, baseless accusations or unsubstantiated character assassinations for the purpose of blocking them from achieving a goal; to exaggerate the truth or lie by omission.

Now, back to something we know has substance and true essence.

This spring/summer soup, with its stunning range of deeply crimson to cerise to magenta red hues and earthy flavors, can be served warm or chilled.

BEET SOUP

3-4 medium red beets, roasted
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

1 T butter
1 leek (white and pale green parts), cleaned well and chopped
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/8 t ground ginger

2 cups chicken stock
2 T red wine vinegar
1 small bay leaf
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 fresh parsley sprig

1/4 C whipping cream
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2-3 T crème fraîche or sour cream
Dill fronds, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 F

Trim ends off beets and rinse. Arrange them in a baking dish, season with salt and pepper, and lightly splash them with olive oil, and cover tightly with foil. Roast until cooked through, about 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of the beets. Cool, then peel beets. Cut 1/4 of one beet into 1/3″ cubes, and reserve for garnish. Cut remaining beets into 1/2″ pieces for use in the body of the soup.

Melt butter with oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add leek, onion, and celery and cook until beginning to brown, stirring frequently, about 12 minutes. Stir in ginger, salt and pepper, and beet pieces. Cook until vegetables begin to stick to bottom of pot, stirring gently and frequently, about 7 minutes. Add chicken stock, red wine vinegar, bay leaf, thyme sprig, and parsley sprig. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes. Remove bay leaf, thyme sprig, and parsley sprig and discard. Allow soup to cool slightly. Working in batches, purée soup by pulsing in food processor with cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Return to saucepan and reheat. Divide soup between bowls, adding reserved beet cubes. Garnish each bowl with a swirl of crème fraîche and dill fronds.