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Beet Cream Soup

(Crema de Remolacha)

A rich and unusual first course; can be served hot or cold to 4 people; very Spanish.

Garnish: Cream and parsley

In a Dutch oven, saute the onion, leeks, and garlic in the butter over a low heat, until they are very soft and golden--as much as 25 minutes. Stir in the chopped beets and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, stock, and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 20 minutes, until the beets are very tender.

Puree the mixture--solids first, then liquid. Return the soup to the Dutch oven, add sherry, cream, salt, and pepper. When you're ready to serve it hot, reheat and ladle into bowls, then drip in some cream into each portion and swirl gently with a knife for a dramatic effect. Top each with a tiny parsley sprig.

This soup can be served cold to great acclaim--plus with a bit a of kick from the sherry--but remember to season more highly with salt if you do.