Golden Beet Soup
Photo: Ajna Jaisinghani / Contributor
Originally cultivated in the Middle East, beets may be popular among trendy chefs and foodies alike but suffer all sorts of indignities because of their strong earthy flavors. Often compared to metal, mud, wood and even dirty socks, there are many beet haters out there. I remember having to endure dinner-table lectures from my father extolling the benefits of eating sliced raw beets, which as a kid I eyed with deep distaste.
Beets are now regarded as a superfood, and preliminary research has shown that drinking fresh beet juice may boost our stamina to help us exercise longer. This is partly because of nitrates, a naturally occurring chemical in beets that our body is able to convert into nitric oxide to help regulate blood flow and blood pressure. My search to find ways to get folks to like beets has led me on a path to cook them in umpteen ways. When paired with nuts, seeds, citrus, herbs or lentils, the earthy taste can be muted to create wonderful new flavors.
A couple of weeks ago, a tub of gorgeous golden yellow beets landed in my restaurant kitchen, freshly harvested from the organic Animal Farm Center from nearby Cat Spring. Considered a gentler and milder cousin of the robust red beet, the yellow beet holds its golden color for longer when cooked as opposed to the red, which can go from a deeply pungent fuchsia to a dull brown if overcooked. Given the cold weather, I decided to make a warming soup with the golden beets and, on a hunch, instead of the perfunctory turmeric, added saffron threads and sesame seeds to the broth, with delicious results.