Ohio does not immediately come to mind when you speak of French cuisine. Yet, Northeastern Ohio has been home to scores of immigrants; and their traditional cuisines have become a part of what makes this region so special. Recently, our culinary gems have been recognized in the national media; but our love of food, and support of those restaurants and chefs who create the very best, has been enduring for decades.
One such restaurant is L’Albatros Brasserie, located in Cleveland’s University Circle area. Chef/owner Zack Bruell has been launching successful, acclaimed restaurants in Northeast Ohio for as long as I can remember. (His bio says 30 years.) On a recent trip, while we sat in cheery sunshine on the lovely stone patio, the waiter described a special soup of the day made with beets and watermelon, served chilled and garnished with creme frâiche.
Intrigued, one of my friends ordered the soup and four spoons so that we all could taste. I’ve never been a fan of chilled soup (gazpacho, no thank you). I wasn’t expecting much. Well. I was “bigly” wrong — All four of us loved it. I decided to tackle a re-creation. Below is my version; and I’ve got to tell you that it is pretty darn good!
Chilled Watermelon Beet Soup
3 large, fresh beets, roasted (directions below)
¼ to 1/2 of a large watermelon, seeded and cut into chunks (about 4 c.). Buy a fresh, local watermelon. Trust me on this.
Salt & Pepper
Crème frâiche, purchased (or, follow directions for homemade below)
Fresh, chopped chives to garnish
Peel and cut the beets into quarters. Beets are messy, so try to work in the sink as much as possible. Don’t wear good clothes, even if you have an apron on!
Put the beets in a baking dish. Coat lightly with olive oil. Cover with foil. Then, place into an oven set at 350℉ and roast for about 1 hour, until the beets are tender enough to pierce with a fork.
Allow the beets to cool thoroughly.
Cut up and seed (if necessary) 1/4 of the watermelon.
In a full-size blender, first place some watermelon, then some beets. Purée. Keep adding watermelon and beets until you have puréed all of them. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the soup tastes too strong, continue to add watermelon until you find a good proportion. I ended up with 32 ounces of soup in my blender jar.
Refrigerate the soup. When ready to serve, ladle the soup into a chilled bowl. Top with a dollop of crème frâiche and a sprinkle of minced fresh chives. You will find this dish delicious, refreshing, healthy, and something out of the ordinary!
Homemade Crème Frâiche
Mix a proportion of ⅓ yogurt with ⅔ heavy cream in a glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, ventilate by poking a few holes into it. Set the bowl in a warm area of the kitchen for 12-24 hours, until the cream thickens into a soft mound consistency. Then, keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.
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