Early spring soups, for all their comfort and warmth, aren’t known for their color. My early spring market haul tends to be root vegetables, alliums and tubers—and perhaps a few cruciferous friends. That’s a lot of beige and brown food in my bowl, and most of the time, that’s just fine. It’s soothing. It makes me feel nourished.
Enter beets, deep red and dyeing everything they touch a saturated magenta–pink. Beets check all the boxes: They are earthy, comforting, sweet and colorful. Some say the root vegetable tastes like dirt, but I’ve never met a beet I didn’t love. Maybe it’s my Russian heritage—beets are the undisputed superstars of Russian cooking and adored in Persian, Middle Eastern and North African cuisines, as well—but I’ll eat them in any permutation: in borscht, in vinegret or herring-under-a-fur-coat (two beloved Russian dishes), julienned raw in salads or spun into a garlicky spread, zakuski-style.
I craved a gentle, delicate soup. I decided to make a finely ground pistachio–herb topping to imbue a beet soup with even more color as well as herbaceous and gutsy notes.
Toasting the pistachios in the oven with a little olive oil, turmeric and salt punched up the nuts’ flavor and color. Once they were cool, I blitzed them with generous handfuls of dill, parsley and cilantro, adding a bit more salt along the way.
Once the beets were cooked and puréed into a soup, I spooned a bit into my mouth. The result, while fragrant and delicious, felt thin—like something was missing. Adding cream didn’t feel right. I wanted to keep the soup vegan and light and continue to channel flavors of the Levant. I remembered being served a dish of roasted beets drizzled with lemony, garlicky tahini. What if I added the tahini to the soup to thicken it up? My instincts proved right: Whirred into the soup, it provided the necessary backbone, and it did something unexpected—it brightened the dark red purée, turning it a striking fluorescent pink.
Topped with colorful pistachio–herb topping and drizzled with olive oil, the soup lifted me up with its cheery pink color and soothing flavor. And while there was richness to the soup, it didn’t feel heavy.
Though the days are still on the shorter side, I’ve found a soup to be my guiding light, as I impatiently wait to spy my first spring asparagus and the bright produce to follow.