Friday, January 02, 2009

Just as I began my week-long New Year's detox vegan diet, I received an e-mail from my dad containing only a link to this horrifying video:

Good grief! Meanwhile I'm chopping away at leeks, beets and chard, people in Arizona are consuming Quadruple Bypass burgers in celebration of the likelihood that a greasy diet will lead to a stroke or a heart attack. You only live once, right? Yes, but perhaps not for very long!

I myself like a good cheeseburger, but fortunately greasy food isn't the only way I get my rocks off. This time of year, I truly look forward to roasted root vegetables, poached pears and my mother's hearty leek soup. Today, I used her basic recipe for leek soup to make my own take on another seasonal favorite: borscht. Don't judge! I think that even those who aren't huge fans of beets might like this soup because it balances the hardcore earthiness of the beets with sweetness from the potatoes and savory, garlicky warmth from the leeks. The neon magenta color that comes from the blend of orange sweet potatoes and  blood red beets is absolutely stunning -- it's really hard to believe that there isn't any food-coloring involved. Thus, I present:
"Borscht is for Lovers" Soup
  • 1 red beet, scrubbed and quartered
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into about 6 chunks
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and chopped into little 1/2-inch shreds (white part only)
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • about 1 to 2 cups of vegetable stock (8 to 16 oz)
  • about 1 to 2 cups of unsweetened soy milk
  • salt, white pepper, and nutmeg to taste
In a medium to big pot, "melt" the leek: coat the shreds with the tablespoon of oil and a pinch of salt and sautee over medium heat until approaching translucent. Don't let them brown! Reserve 1/3 of the melted leeks in a bowl. Add to the pot the quartered beet and sweet potato chunks. Add to the pot enough stock to just cover the lot of it. Cover the pot and allow everything to simmer until both the beets and sweet potato are tender when pierced with a knife. When the tubers are finally soft, add the reserved leek back into the mix (this retains the leek-y flavor -- something my mom taught me). Using a hand blender, puree everything in the pot while still hot. Season the resulting puree with salt, pepper and fresh nutmeg to taste and then thin with soy milk to the desired consistency. Plenty for two!

I used soy milk and olive oil on this recipe only because I'm attempting to go completely animal-free food-wise for the week, but my mom would have certainly cooked the leeks in butter and thinned the puree with, gasp, heavy cream! You only live once, right?