Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Golden Beet Soup, with Goat Cheese and Braised Beet Greens

I first cooked with Golden Beets (or yellow beets?) last year when I saw them at our local Farmer's Market. This was a new food for me, they were tasty, and I was hooked. They taste less earthy than regular beets, but are just as delicious. Plus, the green tops are edible (and nutritious for the whole family, especially our primarily breastfed nine month old baby boy whose iron intake we've been careful to bolster through naturally iron-rich foods). So I got excited when I saw these special beets again this year, and couldn't wait to create something new with them! Last year, I learned that the beets taste amazing when paired with a little goat cheese, so I decided to explore that avenue some more.  This soup was very simply prepared but turned out well, and made enough to enjoy for lunch the next day (by which time it tasted even better).

Golden Beet Soup, with Goat Cheese and Braised Beet Greens

Serves 4 - 6

You will need:

3 big Golden Beets with green tops
1 tablespoon butter
pinch of nutmeg
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil,
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus zest of half a small lemon
Goat cheese - at least 4 tablespoons
salt and pepper to taste

Cut off the green tops about an inch from the base, wash well in cold water, dry, then chop into 1/2 inch strips and set aside.
Scrub grit off, then peel the beets. Cut off the top-part with the green stem remnants.  Dice the beets into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot on medium heat. Add the onions and let them soften and become translucent. Stir in the ginger, then add the beets, and broth. Bring up to a boil, stirring occasionally, then simmer covered for forty minutes or until beets are cooked through and break up easily with a fork.
While the soup is cooking, melt the butter in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the beet green strips along with a pinch of nutmeg, and the lemon zest. The greens will release water and soften up in a couple of minutes, then remove from heat and set aside until serving.
Back to the soup - when the forty minutes have passed - check the salt, add pepper if desired. Add lemon juice. Give it a good stir. Then very carefully puree the soup using an immersion blender, or in small batches in a regular blender, until smooth. Reheat the soup before serving. Top each bowl with at least one tablespoon of crumbled goat cheese, and the reserved beet greens. Serve with crusty bread. Enjoy!

Note: I have also tried this soup with a splash of heavy cream stirred into the pot after pureeing. It adds a very rich taste, so go ahead and add it if you want that extra oomph. But it is unnecessary, the soup is just as velvety and tasty on its own.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Blackberry Picking with Baby

Blackberry picking is one of our little family unit's summer highlights. Every August here in the Pacific Northwest, like it or not, these purple jewels take over the landscape. To some, they are noxious weeds to be obliterated, to others it is foraging at its finest. Every year Ryan and I brave their thorny defenses to pick several pounds of delicious blackberries. To eat, to freeze, to make our one year supply of jam, to fold into crepes, pies and crisps, to toss into breakfast cereal, to whizz into assorted beverages, and to do whatever else we like with them. One year, I discovered that if I made a sort of syrup out of them, I had the makings for a wonderfully summery (but completely unconventional) Blackberry Vodka Martini. So.much.flavor.

This year, with a nine-month-old in tow, it gets trickier. Since Johann was born we've continued doing the things we enjoy, and venturing out into the brush for berry picking is no different. (So far this year we've already foraged and enjoyed several different berries including salmonberries, red huckleberries, and thimbleberries.) With Ryan's help, it's relatively easy. One of us back-carries him in the Ergo, and aims for the easiest picking, while the other one dons long pants and boldly goes forth into the brush. Easy. So, I thought, why not try going on my own and just head for the easy picking?

So last week, I front-carried Johann (I cannot yet strap him onto my back without help) and we ventured out alone. We got in thirty minutes of picking before before nap time hit. Isn't this the sweetest grumpy face, you've ever seen?

We made it out alive, relatively unscathed, armed with two pounds of ripe blackberries. Not bad for a short time and a few extra challenges.    

I've learned now that blackberry picking with a baby strapped to your chest presents several challenges.

One: you have to go where the blackberries are, which usually means off the trails and into full sun where the best berries (and the thorniest brambles, unfortunately) reside.

Two: you have to pass up several obvious precious clusters of ripe fruit, they're now out of reach because of the much more precious baby strapped to your chest.

Three: not only do you have to try a little harder to keep your balance, and stay away from the thorns, you also have to keep your baby from reaching out and grabbing thorny leaves and branches! Oye. There were tears.

Bottom line. It takes time and effort, and maybe some pain if you get stuck by thorns, but there is good fruit out there for the picking, it is free, all natural, and we take advantage.

And, at the end of the day, with the baby unit, blackberry picking is so much easier with the help of another. So we plan to carry on this family foraging tradition, and raise Johann to find joy in free and delicious fruit. But next time, I'll bring the dad unit!