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Roasted Beet and Fennel Soup: This Strange Feat

Whenever I go skiing, I often find myself in the following position: standing at the top of a big hill, staring down and being completely taken by fear. Now, having skiied since I was about fourteen, you’d think there would have come a time when I wouldn’t feel this way and maybe some of you skiers and snowboarders out there can’t relate. Maybe I’m just a scaredy cat? I can’t help it.

There’s something about the moment before you’re off that you think, “I can’t do this!” “This is crazy!” But once your pounding heart is overcome by your legs, which push you over the edge, you stop looking at the very bottom and start looking only a few feet ahead. About thirty seconds in, you start enjoying yourself, and after five to seven minutes, you find yourself skiing up to the back of the chair lift line, ready to do it all over again.

It’s a strange feat we put ourselves through. Pushing ourselves to face our fears and doing it over and over again just to experience that short-lived and fleeting feeling of pure adrenaline. With skiing, it’s a repetitive motion. Throughout a day on the slopes, I can have this same progression of fear, excitement, adrenaline, followed by relaxation and an opportunity to sit back on the chair lift and take in the silent beauty of the mountains and snow-dusted treetops. But it is not so with so many other things. By the time you stop looking at the bottom of the hill, you realize that you’ve already reached it, and there is no other opportunity to do it all again.

I suppose there’s a sadness about this sort of perspective, but also a great energy in knowing that thinking too much about the grandness of things — the way to the bottom — is scarier than just making your way down, looking only a few feet ahead. We make so many plans and predictions. Take so many precautions. Ingest so many vitamins. Spend so much energy on staying on the given path. The only thing we have to fear, as FDR so famously said, is fear itself.

This soup recipe is a flexible one, as I find that sometimes, cooking is best through feeling, not rigid instruction. You take beets, roast them, add some toasted fennel seeds, salt and pepper, vegetable stock, heavy cream. Some nuts. A little bit of salty cheese. You can skip the fennel, if that’s not your thing. Or omit the heavy cream, if you’re worried about that sort of indulgence. Use Parmesan instead of Pecorino. Walnuts instead of hazelnuts.

Roasted Beet and Fennel Soup
*serves four

5-8 red beets (depending on their size), greens removed
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds
handful of hazelnuts
3-4 cups of vegetable stock
1/4- 1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Trim the beets and toss them, unpeeled, with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste. Prick each beet with a fork a few times. Individually wrap the beets in foil, place in a baking dish or on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for approximately one hour (until they can easily be pierced with a fork). Remove from the oven and let cool.
2. In a small skillet, briefly toast the fennel seeds over medium heat until they release an aroma. Transfer the fennel seeds to a mortar and pestle and grind them.
3. Add the hazelnuts to the same skillet you used to toast the fennel seeds and briefly toast them over medium heat until they release an aroma. Transfer nuts to a cutting board and chop roughly.
4. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them and slice them into 1 inch thick slices. Combine the beets, ground fennel, 3 cups of vegetable stock, salt and pepper in a medium pot and puree with a hand blender until velvety smooth. Add more stock to thin out the soup, if you’d like. Bring the soup to a slow boil, then remove from the heat and stir in the cream (use more or less, to taste). Add more salt and pepper, if needed.
5. Serve soup topped with toasted hazelnuts and grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Musical Pairings: Choir of Young Believers – Rhine Gold + Roasted Beet and Fennel Soup

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Posted by Kasey

Kasey is the food editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. She loves dark chocolate, warm crusty bread, and traveling to new places. She speaks Russian, but does not like vodka.

  • naturallyella

    Love this post, Kasey. There are some days I struggle with excessive amounts of fear (especially when it comes to the future.) I think what gets me is that I can plan and plan, but in the end, plans change. It’s often better to not fear but instead, live.

    As for skiing- since I’m a snowboarder I often find getting off the lift scarier then traversing down the mountain 🙂 Love the soup and I can’t wait until I get beets in the csa!

  • I totally relate to your skiing metaphor. I went skiing for the first time in twenty years this winter, and even though I skied right down my first bunny slope, no problem, I was still terrified at the top of every hill. At the top of the last slope, I decided I’d been outside my comfort zone ENOUGH for the day and skied down at a pitifully slow pace, feeling like a total sissy. Sometimes you have to work up to these things. I’m looking at making a move to Kansas City and I feel like I’m looking down the tallest mountain but maybe I should just GO for it! As for the soup, I haven’t learned to like beets (yet) but it sure is pretty!

  • I am pretty sure everyone is terrified on the bunny slope their first time skiing. It looks SO steep! But you made it! Sometimes you have to work up to it, but if you work yourself up too much, it might make the ride scarier than it needs to be than if you just go for it. 🙂 Metaphor appropriate for other areas of life!

  • Giiiiirl, you and me both. I fear the future a lot and I tend to freak out when things aren’t planned out (even though I know that plans can change so quickly). But, I do think that living with mistakes is better than living in fear. And I would be scared of the lift as a snowboarder, too! It always looks pretty tricky…

  • Lori @ Lemons and Lavender

    Great post! When I was a skier, I got into a really bad habit of standing at the top of the run to map out a course for myself (more of an effort to avoid the moguls). It got to the point that I would linger there after everyone else went ahead. I’m naturally cautious and I see this trepidation manifest itself far too often even in other situations. I need to do in life what I finally did in skiing: get off the lift and just go. I will be able to handle whatever obstacles are in my way (just as I did then) and there’s nothing wrong with going slowly or moving off to the side. The idea is to keep moving forward.

    I cook with beets often but have never made them into a soup. I need to go and try that!

  • absolutely mouth-watering!

  • yazbell

    I made some similar and thinned it out for a risotto stock. The result was a creamy purple risotto with some grated parmesan on top. Yum!

  • Kasey, I never have had a beet soup other than borscht. This looks really good and simple. I also really enjoyed the way you talked about the recipe: your flexibility and relaxed attitude speak to me!

  • Hi Lori! It sounds like many of us hesitate at the top of the hill. We all know we can do it but we want to linger and analyze the situation. But I agree, we should all try to be better about just moving forward. Beets are great in soup!

  • Thanks for the idea! I would love to try making a beet risotto…if only just for the gorgeous color.

  • I grew up with borscht, but never learned to like it! In fact, for a while, I disliked beets in general. It was roasting them for the first time that really made me reconsider them. In my head I *try* to be flexible, but I, like many of us, need to be much much better at it!

  • i heart salt

    LOL! I was always the opposite…I would point my skis downhill and take off, flying as fast as I could (and sometimes faster than I could)! I have had to learn to do what y’all do…stop, plan, think, avoid the moguls….you still get to the bottom, one way or another.

    And beets rock!

  • Pingback: 15 Best Creamy Soups for Gold Weather()

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