It’s not entirely true that there’s no produce in the middle of winter – there’s onions and garlic and carrots and beets. And if you’re running out of inspiration, whirl them into a brilliant red soup – the carrots bring the beets down from brilliant purple to a naturally brilliant red – perfect for Valentine’s Day. During the winter, I love sippable soups I can take with me in my to-go coffee mug, or sip at my desk to keep warm while increasing my veggie intake. Doesn’t that sound practical and grown-up? The other great thing about pureed soups is that they freeze and thaw very well – there’s no risk of anything going soggy – so you can have a stash of emergency dinners on hand, or lunch to grab and go in the morning if you have a means of reheating it at work or school.
Did I mention how wonderful the color is? It’s stunning. If you like, whirl in a spoonful of plain yogurt or low-fat sour cream to make it a creamy, paler pink. To roast the beets, wrap them individually in foil and bake at 350˚F-400˚F directly on the oven rack (I like to tuck them alongside whatever else is baking) for about an hour, or until tender. Once cool enough to handle, you can peel the skins off with your fingers.
Roasted Beet & Carrot Soup
canola or olive oil, for cooking
2 onions, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 celery stalks, chopped (use the leaves, too)
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 L beef or chicken stock
3-4 beets, roasted and peeled
1-2 Tbsp. red wine or balsamic vinegar, or to taste (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream, for serving
In a large pot, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic, celery and carrots and cook for about 10 minutes, until everything is soft and starting to turn golden.
Add the stock and 2-4 cups of water. Grate the beets using the coarse side of a box grater and add that too. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender and the broth has thickened slightly. Add the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste and if you like, puree with a hand-held immersion blender right in the pot, or transfer in batches to a blender to whiz until smooth. Serve hot, garnished with sour cream. To make hearts, drop spoonfuls on the surface and pull the tip of a bamboo skewer through to make a heart (or hearts). Serves 6.