Wednesday, November 7, 2007

beet soup

Back a million weeks ago, when my parents sent me home with fresh produce from their garden, the bounty included a bag full of small-ish beets.

Now the great thing about beets is, they’re tailor-made for long storage. Hence when I decided to make some beet soup this afternoon, the beets were still good to go.

Beet soup is sometimes called borsht. I think it may include potatoes in that incarnation. The soup below is just plain beets and onions. Feel free to jazz it up if you like.

several beets (don’t know how many I used; let’s say 12-15 small)
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
olive oil
salt to taste

Consider yourself duly forewarned: beets are MESSY. The easiest way to cook them is whole, with their tough outer skins on. Just put the washed (but unpeeled!) beets in a pot, and cover them with water.

They’ll take a long time to cook, though. Like, probably more than an hour. They’re done when you can pierce them with a fork.

Peeling them is the cool part. Put the pot full of cooked beets in the sink, and run cold water into the pot until the beets are just warm to the touch. Then, one beet at a time, gently squeeze the skins off. (Don’t wear white.) My mom always left the skins in the pot – that way you’re not flapping your hands like a maniac, trying to brush off the wet skins.

Once you’ve peeled all the cooked beets, chop them coarsely and set them aside.

In your large pot, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion. Sautee until soft. Add the cooked beets, fill the pot with just enough water to cover everything, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Now comes the REALLY messy part. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. (Really don’t wear white.)

How do you puree soup, by the way? For safety’s sake, you should probably wait until the soup is cool. Me, I like to live dangerously – I always puree it hot. (Kids, this requires adult supervision!)

Transfer the pieces of vegetables into the blender jar with a ladle. Make sure there’s enough cooking liquid to cover all the pieces, or the machine may blades may get stuck and stall. Think of it as giving the vegetable pieces enough room to float – but just a little bit!

Transfer the pureed soup to a waiting container – preferably a large bowl. (I’m house-sitting right now. Could only find a couple of medium-sized bowls in this kitchen. I’m thinking the homeowner doesn’t cook much…)

Once all the soup is pureed, I usually put it all back in the pot, and add salt to taste. How much salt? Well, it depends how salty you like your soup. Try adding about a tablespoonful, and stir the soup well before tasting. If it doesn’t seem salty enough, and another tablespoonful… and so on.

I measure stuff with my hands most of the time, and I usually like to add a couple of palm-dents of salt to a large pot of soup.

My biggest regret of the afternoon: I forgot to bring my handy canning funnel from home. I usually put the pureed soup into canning jars and freeze them to re-heat later; it’s SO much messier without a canning funnel.

A lot of people don't really like beets. I think they're yummy. Naturally sweet, and such an amazing colour. Plus, what other food turns your pee pink?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

the light of the moon

I'm ashamed to admit how little time I spend outside during the course of my "normal" day-to-day life. I walk from my apartment to my car, and from my car to other buildings. Occasionally I actually go for walks on city streets. But generally I spend very little time outdoors, and even less time in a natural setting.

I'm house-sitting right now, looking after two large dogs. They need to be let out several times a day, and walked at least twice. The property is quite large, and one circumnavigation of the park-like grounds is a frequent choice for the daily walks.

I am loving being outside with the dogs in this crisp, autumn weather.

This morning I took them out early, since I also had to put out the recycling for the garbage trucks before 7:00 a.m. It was still dark, but I've done the walk around the grounds with the dogs often enough to feel comfortable on the unlit terrain.

And I hadn't counted on the moon.

When you live in a city with streetlights, it's easy to forget how bright the moon is. I remember reading books as a child, with stories about people travelling "by the light of the moon," and I could never figure out how the moon could give light.

Then I spent a summer planting trees in northern Ontario, where there are NO lights for miles; during a midnight pee I found myself blearily wondering where the spotlight had come from - and then realized it was the moon, high above me!

It was magical walking by the light of the moon this morning with the dogs. They had shadows! That made me laugh - to think the moon is bright enough to cast shadows.

(And it's only a quarter moon right now; it will be a lot brighter in a week's time...)