Monday, November 10, 2008

Recipe for Beet Soup (Παντζαρόσουπα)

Rushes of adrenaline are surging through my body. My hands are shaking so hard it’s difficult to type.

For the last half hour, I’ve been trying to chase a gathering of moose out of the garden. Whistling and yelling and waving my arms convinced two of them to leave. The remaining two ignored me, continuing to eat the currant bushes with equanimity.

To assist their departure, I opened the garden gate, hooting and hollering the whole time. This only motivated the largest moose to charge in my direction. I ran back to the house - and safety - as fast as my legs would carry me.

Both moose calmly returned to chomping the currant bushes, working their way unacceptably close to our precious apple tree.

I grabbed a baseball bat and headed back into the fray. This time I approached the garden through the woods, whacking trees with the bat and making the scariest noises I could muster. As I neared the garden fence, being careful to stay out of sight and to keep the fence between me and the moose, they finally turned tail and ran, not through the open gate but over the 7-foot fence.

Such are the challenges of gardening in Alaska. It’s clear we’ll have to raise the fence to keep out rapacious moose.

No doubt the moose were in the garden because snow covers the grass on which they normally graze. With temperatures well below freezing, Alaska is settling into winter.

Cold weather goes hand in hand with soup. Last night we sat in front of a roaring fire, cozy in our log house, enjoying bowls of ruby-red Beet Soup.

Hearty Beet Soup is chockfull of vegetables. Because they cook for a relatively short time, the vegetables retain their individual flavors. They swim in a savory-yet-sweet broth, which is perfectly balanced by the sour cream and fresh dill garnish.

Now that I’ve calmed down from my moose encounter, I’m ready for lunch: a delicious bowl of leftover Beet Soup.

Beet Soup (Παντζαρόσουπα)
Serves 6
Bacon adds wonderful flavor to the soup, but it’s equally delicious without it; if you omit the bacon, sauté the vegetables in 2 tablespoons olive oil. If you don’t want to bother with dicing the beets, parsnips, and carrots, grating them by hand or in a food processor works just fine. Ketchup is an unusual addition, but it boosts the
umami, thus enhancing the soup’s lusciousness. I prefer roasting beets to concentrate their flavor; however, the soup may also be made with boiled, steamed, or microwaved beets. If the beets are cooked ahead of time, Beet Soup makes a quick and tasty meal.

1 cup diced bacon, 1/4” dice (optional)
1 cup diced parsnips, 1/8” dice
1 cup diced carrots, 1/8” dice
1 1/2 cups diced celery, 1/4” dice
1 1/2 cups diced onions, 1/4” dice
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
6 cups vegetable or beef stock
1 14.5 ounce can diced or crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup ketchup
4 medium-sized beets, roasted and cut in 1/4” dice
1 1/2 cups finely shredded cabbage
Sour cream
Minced dill

Sauté the bacon in a Dutch oven until the fat has rendered and the bacon begins to brown. Add the parsnips, carrots, celery, and onions, and sauté until the onion softens. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, ketchup, beets, and cabbage. Bring to a boil, cover, turn down the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through and the broth is flavorful.

Serve the soup immediately, topped with a dollop of sour cream and minced fresh dill.

NOTE on Roasting Beets: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash the beets, cut off the greens leaving an inch of stem (don't cut into the beet itself), rub the beets with olive oil, and wrap tightly in a foil packet (or place in a tightly covered baking dish). Bake for 40 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the beets and how fresh they are. The beets are done when they're tender if poked with a knife or skewer. Let the beets cool, and slip off their skins (I wear gloves when I do this to protect my hands from staining). (These can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for about a week.)

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by Heather from Diary of a Fanatic Foodie.


Maria Verivaki said...

i don't know what i enjoyed more - the moose chase or the soup you ate in a house warmed by a log fire!
we havent had rain since you were in greece - absolutely useless weather for olive growth

Peter M said...

Is it moose season yet up there? It's a wonderful game meat!

I'm delighted to see another "pantzarosoupa" out there and I too sneak ketchup here and there in a dish.

Núria said...

Sorry Laurie, but I laughed so hard with your story!!!! So funny... I could see you and could see that you really didn't impress the mooses at all!!! We, naked humans (without guns, I mean) are so small and insignificant...
Not that I would have killed them, no way, just a shot in the air to scare them... seeing that your shouts didn't make them even blink!

Never tried anything with beet, but if it tasted as good as it looks... I want a plate for me, please :D

Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

Oh Laurie! I battle inner city drunks near my apartment here in Sydney and you fight with moose!...LOL. Love the "soupa" and with bacon, even better! Good to see you've been missed!

Anonymous said...

What a funny story! But the moose is a sweetei (not so much though if they munch on your garden...). The soup looks lovely and I see you also use the roasting beet technique. It really changed my appreciation of beets!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Moose are gigantic animals. I have come across several in my time but they have usually been content to munch on their grass or lilly roots undisturbed. Here we are more likely to see coyotes, deer, bear or cattle in our garden. I am glad you were comforted by this delicious soup:D

Simona Carini said...

From now on I will look differently at our deer. Nice shots! And very nice soup!

Anonymous said...

I wonder how moose meat goes with beets...I would have been curious to find out!
On second thought, maybe bacon is easier.
Nice recipe, great story!

Laurie Constantino said...

Maria, sad to read abut your rain (or lack thereof). Wish you could drop by for a cup of tea in front of the fire!

Peter M., even in moose season, you can't shoot moose within the city limits. Hmmm, wonder if that's why they congregate here!

Nuria - I laughed too, but only after it was over. I didn't know I could still run - I guess it's just a matter of proper motivation! You should try beets - roasting them makes beets delicious and they're really good with a nice romesco sauce. Hmm. Maybe I'll make some romesco to use with the leftover beets!

Peter G - crazy world, ain't it! (and, yes, everything does go better with bacon...)

Junkie, moose are actually quite dangerous to humons and have killed more than one person. I was being stupid for getting too close but I was blinded by desire to save my plants! Yes, I'm with you, I never liked beets until I started roasting them.

Val, life in the west among the animals has it moments! I'm convinced that moose's favorite food is tulips at the moment right before they open. At least in my yard that's how it is. I've had to give up on my dream of a spring filled with tulips. :-(

Simona, deer also love gardens, or so I'm told.

Erik, bacon is definitely easier!

Joanne said...

LOL - Hilarious story! My brother is a licensed hunter here in Ontario and often brings home his prized game: bear, moose and deer, and occasionally rabbit or wild turkey. If he was your neighbour, you would be feasting on moose steak at the moment. Sorry to those readers that are anti-hunting but some people (not me!) enjoy the thrill of the hunt, while others choose to buy their meat at the supermarket wrapped in plastic.

Your beet soup or "borscht", as my husband's people call it, looks and sounds incredible. I think I will surprise my husband one day and make this soup. He will be very surprised that I made it, since I normally do not like the "borscht" that his mother makes. Actually come to think of it, I should make this beet soup and have my in-laws over for dinner ;)

Joanna said...

Somehow I'd imagined that moose were like the deer we have here - easy to startle, run away at the first sound of a human. Just like you, I provide very expensive food for the wildlife - my difficulty is not scaring them off, but noticing when they have quietly crept in

The soup looks good


Anonymous said...

What a story!!! And I really envy you. How lucky you are to live in such a paradise!!!
The pantzarosoupa looks delicious.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

rofl, I grew up having to worry about deer, but moose sure seem like another story! Great, my father used to go out screaming at the deer and he'd throw his shoes at them. But anyways, backyard pests aside, that soup sounds really tasty and has spectacular color--I've never had beet soup before!

Anonymous said...

I read your post title and see a photo of a moose and think..she puts moose in her beet soup? haha

Lisa Turner said...

Laurie, this beet soup is like a variation on borscht - so tempting and no doubt invigorated you for the next encounter with the moose!

Laurie Constantino said...

Bijoux, it's funny now, but at the time it was scary! Moose are giant animals and have been known to stomp people to death. I do enjoy wild meat, but it's illegal to kill them within the city limits... This is definitely a version of borscht so, yes, make it for your in-laws.

Joanna, moose are used to being the biggest guys around and can be very stubborn about leaving tasty sources of food. And we have a pond in our yard which attracts a lot of wildlife.

Mariana - Alaska is definitely beautiful, but you also have to remember our weather and lack of winter light...

Mike, I completely understand your father's approach!

Maryann, HAHAHA!

Lisa, yep it's borscht of a sort. I didn't call it that because I've never had beet soup other than my own so I don't whether mine would technically meet the standard of a true borshct.

Cheryl said...

Oh my Gosh Laurie! How exciting! Moose! They're huge too! What a pain in the butt though, that they're eating your good stuff! I would've done exactly what you did. As for beets, my husband is a big fan but I'll admit to not really paying much attention to them until just recently. The soup looks delicious and I have to admit that anything that's paired with dill is usually wonderful...I'll give beets another try!
And, now that I've read your post I have my answer about whether or not you have snow...:)

Karen Baking Soda said...

What a great story Laurie! I can imagine the adrenaline flowing. Love the sight of those magnificent animals as I'm in Holland where there's only shy deer and definitely -sadly?- not in my back yard.

Can I ask you a question? Do you happen to have a recipe for Greek fish soup? Psarosoupa? I need to feed a classroom of teenagers with a sample of fish soup (my son and his marvellous ideas...) I'd appreciate your help a lot! bakemyday at gmail dot com

Maria said...

I LOVE it!! What a great post. Too funny ... not funny for you, of course. Well, maybe now in retrospect anyway!

Your soup looks delicious. Your post put me right there in the snow and then in front of that log fire with a big bowl of soup. Alaska ... I'd love to visit some day.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Next time they come back, put a glass bottle over the end of your rifle and wrap it in a bathroom towel. Shoot the bull moose and the cows will leave pronto. We New Jerseyans call the bottle-and-towel trick an Italian silencer. All you hear is a "pop!" and moose goes down...

Anyway, that's my $0.02.

If you don't want to do that, dig a really big pit, cover it with sticks, lay veggies on top of that and pow! Moose falls in and breaks his neck. Caveman style...

test it comm said...

What an amazing colour! I have been wanting to try using beets more often.

~~louise~~ said...

I'm speechless because I'm laughing so hard although, I know it really shouldn't be funny. I will definitely look at the deer in my neck of the woods with a bit more ease after seeing that Moose. Oh my...

I have always wanted to try to roast beets and prepare them in this manner. I do have one question though. Does it make as much of a mess as I imagine it does. Not the moose, the beet roasting:)

Thanks so much for sharing your world...

Laurie Constantino said...

Cheryl, they ARE huge. As for the snow, it's been coming down off and on all week. If you've never eaten beets before, a good way to start is with roasted beets, simply sliced, and served with skordalia. It's heavenly.

Baking Soda, trust me, it's "luckily" you don't have moose OR deer in your back yard. Hope the fish soup recipe I sent helps!

Maria, you've understand completely - it's funny in retrospect (particularly me doing my bear immitation coming through the woods), but was scary at the time. Everyone should come to Alaska once in their life. If you ignore our whacked politicians, the country itself is spectacularly beautiful.

Hank, too funny. A guy I know once lured a moose into his garage with food and trieed to kill it inside (illegal to shoot within the city limits so he was being sneaky). A battle royale ensued with the moose eventually biting the dust but not before he destroyed much of the garage and got blood everyhere. Then he dressed the moose and put the gutpile, bones, etc. in his car trunk and drove away to dump it all. Unfortunately, the trunk was leaking blood and the blood was noticed by a cop who thought it was human. The guy got pulled over by several cop cars and thrown on the ground while a cop opened the trunk and discovered the moose debris. Then he got arrested for illegally killing a moose. And yes, he was drunk when this all occurred.

Exactly Kevin - colorful food is wonderful!

Louise, glad I gave you a laugh! As for the beets, I am careful when I make them because, you're right, the can definitely make a mess. Here's what I do: Cut off the beet greens living about an inch of stem; don't cut into the beet itself before you roast it. When the beets are done when poked with a skewer, I let them cool till I can handle them. Because I don't like pink fingers, I wear gloves to peel them. I also peel them into a glass or other non-porous container. I try to remember to wear an apron when I'm working with beets. It's really a matter of taking steps not to make a mess and if you do this, they're just fine. Or you could use golden beets and avoid the whole problem!

Susan said...

Moose like currants just like the rest of us. Defiant beasts, aren't they? Could have been worse, though; they could have demanded you make jelly for them. :D Very funny post, Laurie.

Lovely recipe, too - so richly colored and flavored.

Virginie said...

A so cute animal ! Thanks for this recipe. I only use beets in soups for the Borsch. Here is another good idea.


When moose are on the loose
have beets with, or not, meats

Laurie Constantino said...

Susan, moose are definitely defiant and I'm just greedy enough that I want to deprive them.

Virginie, that's the first time I've heard a moose called cute!

Tor, moose poetry - I love it.

Anonymous said...

He's too cute to be such a garden terrorist! That was awfully brave of you to go after him and his buddies the way you did, but I guess there were precious things at stake!

We scored a beet bounty from Troy's grandmother over Thanksgiving that I just roasted. Half will go to trying this gorgeous soup. Can't wait to try it tonight.

Anonymous said...
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Marvellous blog!