This is a real Cinderella of a soup — an earthy classic elevated to its most elegant. The seductive mix of spicy root vegetables, citrus, and bright herbs, all suspended in a meatless, radiant ruby broth, hits a bullseye balance of sweet and savory, and sticks-to-the-ribs while stirring the senses. Serve with slices of black bread smeared with salty butter. An ice-cold bottle of vodka…well, that’s optional – though highly recommended.
10 cups of water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
12 peppercorns or juniper berries
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
salt & pepper
2 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
1 turnip, cubed
2 small potatoes, like yukon gold, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup sour cream
1. Fill a large pot with 10 cups of water and set it over a low flame. Add one tablespoon olive oil, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, crushed mustard seed, and a small sprinkling of salt. Peel and halve the beets and drop them into the water as you let it come to a simmer. I don’t bother peeling my carrots — just give them a quick scrub and slice them into thin rounds and add them to the pot. (If they are especially fat carrots, you may want to slice them in half lengthwise first.) Peel the turnip and cut it into small chunks, about 1/2 inch, and then do the same with the potatoes (although if you are using waxy thin-skinned potatoes like yukon golds, you needn’t peel them), and add them to the pot. Raise the heat and simmer the soup for 15-20 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces the beets.
2. Once the beets are tender, lower the heat and spoon them out of the broth. Let them rest on a plate for 2 minutes, or until they are cool to the touch. (Warning – the next step is messy: unless you don’t mind having magenta hands — and personally, I think they look just lovely — you might want to don a pair of rubber gloves.) Take each beet and, using the largest holes in your box grater, shred them into the stock pot. Give the mixture a stir, add an additional tablespoon of olive oil, raise the heat to a slow simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately stir in chopped dill, thinly sliced garlic, lemon juice (you may want to start with the juice of one lemon and add more to your taste), and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with a mounded tablespoon of sour cream.