because Nothing Puts hair on your chest, like hot pink soup.
You may or may not have had Aquavit. This depends entirely on how many crazy Danes, Swedes and Norwegians you have in your life. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, I think it's time to rectify that situation.
The Russians have vodka, the Mexicans have tequila and the Scandinavians have Aquavit, or as we Danes call it, snaps. This stuff will warm you up on a cold winter's day, keep you singing long into the night on a warm summer evening and take you by surprise when you realize that it's only a tiny shot-ful, until you've had 12.
This Nordic tipple comes in many different varieties, ranging from clean and pure, to spiced and infused, and at 37 - 40% proof, it packs a hell of a punch. Think of it like gasoline, but, you know, herbaceous.
Usually enjoyed with food, snaps is brought to the table at celebrations and casual Sunday lunches alike, and is a staple in Scandinavian dining. For my family, it is most notably enjoyed at Christmas time, as we stand, freezing our 'numser' off in the middle of a sub-zero forest on the 26th of December, enjoying a picnic of leftovers, while the youngest members of the family complain about how damned cold it is.
They're right, of course. It's stupidly cold. To any who pass us by, we look like a band of lunatics, dressed in every article of clothing we own, with fingers on the verge of frostbite, eating open-faced sandwiches, singing songs, and drinking snaps.
Photo: My sis (on the right) and I, wrapped in fur, boiler suits, and about four additional layers.
Lunatics? Yes. But the snaps makes us forget how cold it is. All children in our family eventually understand that once you graduate from warm cider (which they mostly use to dunk their frozen hands in, only to realize that it's even colder once they pull them out! Been there, done that) to this medicinal liquor, the picnic becomes a lot more fun.
The problem is, of course, when you get back from the picnic, the fireplace is roaring, and your internal temperature normalizes. I believe the saying is something like 'one snaps, two snaps, three snaps, floor.' Or is that tequila? Six of one, half a dozen of the other, I say.
It's at this point that we enjoy a big bowl of warming soup to comfort, fill and satisfy. Mom usually whips up a big pot of hearty sausage and bean soup, but I like the idea of pairing another Scandinavian staple, beets, with just a touch of Aquavit. The beets are earthy and sweet, the liquor adds a pop of herby depth, and the (very non-Nordic) coconut milk, mellows everything out. Plus, it's hot pink soup - reason enough I do believe.
To a large pot, over medium heat, add two tablespoons of coconut oil, the diced onion and all three spices, and sauté until the onions are translucent, stirring often so the spices don’t burn, about 15 minutes.
At this point, deglaze your pot with a 1/4 cup of Aquavit. This is absolutely my favorite part. When the spirit hits the heat, the smell is just incredible. It’s herby and piney, and brings back memories of long lunches and never-ending evenings. Cook, allowing the alcohol to burn off slightly, while retaining some of the liquid, about 2 minutes.
To the pot, add your whole, cleaned beets, coconut milk and vegetable broth. You want the beets completely covered. They obviously vary in size, so if you’re having a hard time getting the liquid to cover them, you can certainly slice the beets in half.
Cover the pot, and cook, at a steady simmer, for 45 minutes to an hour, until the beets are completely cooked through.
Remove the beets from the liquid, allow them to cool to the point where you can handle them, and, using a couple of paper towels, slide the skins off the beets.
Return the beets to the liquid, add the remaining two tablespoons of Aquavit, salt and pepper to taste, and cook for 5 minutes longer.
Finally, using an immersion blender, blender or Vitamix, carefully blend the soup until completely smooth. Serve the soup topped with some thinly sliced radishes, for crunch and bite.
So, here's some free advice: Make friends with a Scandinavian. Soon enough, you'll be sat long into the night, singing songs, telling tales and laughing wildly. And with any luck, you'll find yourself frostbitten in the middle of a dark forest, surrounded by 22 crazy loons, delightfully numb and happy.