Root vegetables are making their mark on the garden scene as autumn begins to blend into winter. All the vendors at the farmers market have an abundance of beets. Even though beets are not among my favorites, it seems a shame not to give them a go. Bright red borscht seems an obvious choice, and for years we have made a clear beet soup that almost gleams. An alternative seemed to be in order. The other thing about red beets is that they stain everything they touch, including your GI tract.
Golden beets seemed like a good alternative choice, and so I bought a nice bunch at a recent farmers market. Even then, there are several choices: beet salad, Harvard beets, or beets and greens. Honestly, the consistency of cooked beets is not pleasing to me, so I opted for soup.
There are a couple of classic partners to beets: dill and sour cream. The recipe below combines those ingredients.
Bunch of golden beets from the farmers market
Roasted golden beet soup with sour cream and dill
Roasted Golden Beet Soup with Sour Cream and Dill
- 1 bunch golden beets, tops removed – about 4 to 5 medium size beets
- vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/3 cup long-grain white rice
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup sour cream + more for garnish
- 1/2 cup fresh dill fronds, snipped + more for garnish
- Wash and dry the beets. Coat generously with vegetable oil and wrap individually in squares of aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil, and roast in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 350 for 30 minutes or until they are easily pierced with a kitchen fork. Remove from the oven, unwrap, and cool until they are easy to handle. The skin should slip off easily between your fingers. Cut the peeled beets into 1/2 inch cubes and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan over a medium flame, heat the oil and sweat the onions, covered, for 5 minutes until translucent and the juices have been released. Do not brown. Stir in the rice and cook for a minute or two until the grains are translucent. Ad the chicken stock, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the rice is completely cooked and soft. Add water as needed if the soup is too thick.
- Add the beets and simmer for another 10 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg.
- Remove from the heat and puree in a blender or with a stick blender until smooth. For aded smoothness, you may pass the puree through a strainer or chinois. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Stir in the sour cream and dill. Serve hot or cold with a dollop of sour cream and more minced dill as garnish.
In my quest to get to the bottom of our freezer, I found a plastic bag containing four thick ham slices separated by waxed paper. I managed to break one of them free and decided to make a gratin of potatoes, onions, and ham. One of our family favorites is Julia Child’s râpée morv andelle (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volume 1, page 153). In that recipe, though, you are supposed to grate the potatoes and finely dice the ham. The ham steak from the freezer seemed too big and thick to suffer the indignity of fine dicing.
I was reminded of a wonderful dish that a Swedish friend of ours always prepared for her Christmas smörgåsbord: Jansson’s frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation). Potatoes and anchovy filets were arranged in alternating rows and then topped with onions, cheese, cream, and eggs. The casserole was baked until the mixture was puffed and golden. I decided to try that same thing, substituting thinly sliced potato for the grated potatoes and ham cut into bâtonett instead of dice. Scallions would serve as the onion representative.
Ham, Potato, and Onion Gratin
Using a mandoline, slice the unpeeled potato crosswise into 1/16 inch thick rounds. Soak in water until ready to assemble the casserole.
- Remove any fat and bone from the ham steak and cut into strips ½ inch x ½ inch x 2 inches. Set aside until ready to assemble the casserole.
- Combine the beaten eggs with the cream and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
- In a well-greased 8 x 8 x 2 inch ovenproof glass pan, arrange an overlapping row of potato slices that have been drained and patted dry.
- Next to the row of potatoes, arrange a row of the ham slices. Then begin a second row of potatoes, another row of ham pieces, and finish with another row of potato slices.
- Sprinkle the top with half of the cut-up scallions, half of the grated cheese, and cover with half of the egg and cream mixture.
- Make a second layer of alternating potato and ham slices, using all of both. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions and grated cheese. Cover with the remaining egg and cream mixture
- Bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 350° (175°C) for 1 hour and 15 minutes. If the top becomes too brown, cover with aluminum foil.
- When the casserole is golden brown and the potatoes are tender (test with a small knife), remove from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes to set up a bit, and serve immediately while still warm.
First layer of alternating rows of thin potato slices and ham, topped with onions and Swiss cheese
Shreds of cheese and ham pieces
Alternating rows of potato and ham
Ham and potato gratin served with a side of coleslaw