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Farm to table

Beet soup with herb pesto

September 9, 2009

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Serves 4

I had this delectable and unusual soup, made with ground beets, at Bar@Etats-Unis in New York a couple of years ago. The mixture contains pesto made from lots of herbs: fresh thyme, rosemary, parsley, and mint. More of the pesto garnishes the bowls.

8 medium red beets, trimmed at both ends
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons rosemary leaves
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 clove garlic
About 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche (for serving)
1. In a large pot, combine beets with cold water to cover them and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cover the pan. Let them bubble gently for 50 to 60 minutes or until tender. Replenish water as needed.

2. Drain the beets into a colander. Rinse under cold running water until cool enough to handle. Working over a plate, remove and discard the skins from the beets.

3. In a food processor, combine the beets with 1 cup of the stock, salt, and pepper. Work the beets until they are almost pureed but still have some texture. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add enough of the remaining stock to make a soup that is still quite thick. Cover and refrigerate until cool but not cold.

4. Rinse out the processor work bowl; dry with paper towels. Add the thyme, rosemary, parsley, and mint. With the machine running, drop in the garlic and pulse it just until it is chopped. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add more oil, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the sauce comes together to form a loose paste.

5. Stir 1 tablespoon of the herb paste into the cool beet soup. Ladle the soup into cups, add a few drops of the herb paste to each bowl and garnish with sour cream or creme fraiche. Sheryl Julian