Beet Vishyssoise and Buckwheat Blini

By • May 16, 2011 • 0 Comments



Author Notes: This soup is a variant of the creamy leek and potato classic, with the addition of roasted beets which give it a brilliant, dramatic color and slightly sweeter, more exotic flavor. The vegetables do double duty: leek tops and beet stems and greens are used for a flavorful vegetable broth. And a handful of the tenderest beet greens triple up in a gingery, peppery pesto garnish for the soup.

The accompanying buckwheat blinis are elegant and versatile. Instead of the traditional caviar topping, you can garnish them simply with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of chives, or add a sprinkle of bacon bits or smoked fish. As another garnish choice I made some "lentil caviar": some little green French lentils cooked with diced onions and carrots in bacon fat and a splash of balsamic vinegar until they just start to soften but still have some bite. A fun dinner party option would be to let your guests decorate their own blinis from a range of toppings.
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Serves 8-10 soup servings and about 24 blini

Beet Vishyssoise

  • 1 bunch beets, with greens (about 5 small or 3 medium sized)
  • 4 small or 2 medium leeks
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 1/2 pounds potatoes such as Yukon gold (about 4 large potatoes)
  • olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 inch ginger
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Chop off the beet stems and leaves and reserve. Wash the beets well. Peel them, reserving the skin for the stock, and cut them into approximately 1 inch cubes. In a ovenproof pan, toss the beet pieces in olive oil to coat and salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are soft and fragrant and just slightly charred around the edges.
  2. Prepare the soup stock. Remove the green parts of the leeks, slice lengthwise, and wash thoroughly under running water. Chop coarsely. Peel and chop the onion. Rinse the beet greens thoroughly and discard any bruised or wilted leaves. Reserve a small handful of the tenderest and freshest leaves, with a couple of inches of stem, for the soup garnish, and chop the remaining stems and leaves for the broth. Scrub the potatoes well and peel them, reserving the peels, and covering the potatoes in cold water to prevent discoloring. Wash the ginger, peel it, and reserve the peels for the stock and the flesh for the pesto. Heat a large stockpot and add a glug of olive oil (approximately 2 tablespoons). Saute the onions and leek tops for a few minutes until they are glassy. Add the chopped beet stems and continue cooking until the vegetables are very soft, about 8 minutes, but make sure that they do not start to brown. Add 8 cups of water, the beet leaves and potato, beet, and ginger peels, and salt generously. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Strain and reserve.
  3. Prepare the soup. Wash and chop the reserved leek whites. Heat a large soup pot and melt the butter. Add a small glug of olive oil (approximately 1 tablespoon) and the leeks with a pinch of salt and cook over medium low heat for about 8 minutes until the leeks are very soft. Add 6 cups of the strained vegetable stock. Cube the potatoes into approximately 1 1/2 inch chunks and add to the pot. Simmer on low for about 25 minutes, until the potatoes are soft. Add the roasted beet cubes to the soup. Rinse the beet roasting pan with a ladle of vegetable stock and add this to the soup. Simmer on low for another five minutes. Then puree the soup with an immersion blender until completely smooth. Adjust seasoning and thin with a little more vegetable broth if necessary.
  4. In the last few minutes before the soup is done, prepare the garnish. Put the peeled ginger in a food processor or mini chopper along with the reserved beet leaves. Add a pinch of salt, a generous grinding of pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil (about 1 tablespoon). Chop into a coarse pesto.
  5. Serve the soup warm with a dollop of the peppery beet leaf and ginger pesto.

Buckwheat blini

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs, separated into whites and yokes
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup buckwheat flour (or for lighter blinis, you could use a mixture of buckwheat and white flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • more butter for cooking the blinis
  • soup cream for garnish
  • chopped chives for garnish
  1. Prepare the batter at least 2 1/2 hours before you want to serve the blinis. Combine the yeast and sugar in the warm water and let sit until it foams up, about 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk together the milk and egg yokes, and reserve the egg whites for later. Whisk in the melted butter. Then mix in the yeast mixture, the flour, and the salt until smooth. Let the batter rest in a warm place for 2 hours or more as it expands.
  3. When you are ready to make the blinis, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff and then fold into the batter.
  4. Warm a griddle on medium low heat and grease it with butter. Spoon out the blini batter with a soup spoon to form pancakes approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Cook until they form permanent bubbles and then flip and cook an additional couple of minutes on the second side. The blinis should be lightly browned on both sides. Remove to a warm platter and rebutter the pan with each batch.
  5. Serve the blinis warm alongside the soup with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of fresh chives, or include additional toppings as suggested in the header notes.
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