Hello my friends! And happy “we’re officially in it now” summer! The past few weeks at the market have been fantastic and I’ve been percolating all kinds of ideas. The fruits (or vegetables!) of which will be appearing on this page with more consistency 🙂
I admit, I do miss cooking for all of you and bringing fresh ideas (and tastes!) to you on Saturdays. I am enlisting the adage “when one door closes, another door opens” as we put our heads together and brainstorm creative ways to bring the food love back to the people! (ahem, soap box stowed safely away again).
I was waxing rhapsodic with Sarah about beets this past Saturday when Wendy said “Write that in your blog! People want to know about beets!”. Really? Y’all want to know about beets? OK. Beets it is!
My experience with “beet people” is that there is a definitive division between the lovers and the, um, not-lovers (I refrain from using the “h” word as it brings unneeded negative vibes). A good friend of mine (who is among the “NLs”) sums up his feelings for beets in this way: “they taste like dirt”. Hmm, well, I agree that beets, especially the deep red ones (most of us know) do have an earthiness to them. I, being a lover of nature and all things mama-earth, am quite fine with that earthiness. I am aware that it is this same earthiness which causes many a child (and adult) to wrinkle their nose in distaste. I aim to do something about that.
As a child and into my teens and young adulthood I cultivated my love of beets early on. My grandfather had a (quite large) garden, and I spent hours with him harvesting vegetables, the common beet among them. I remember pulling fresh, young beets from their earthen bed, rinsing them under the hose and taking a bite out of the firm, crisp flesh. heaven. And my grandfather managed to elevate their already heavenly status by creating (hands down) the best pickled beets I have ever had in my life. sweet and spicy and briny – an explosion of flavors on the tongue. Sadly his recipe left this world when he did, and although I am able to make a pretty decent pickled beet, they in no way compare to his. I’m not sure they ever could. I like to think it is a combination of the process of planting, nurturing and cultivating the seeds, the hours he spent tending to and caring for his garden and the love he infused into those ball jars filled with purpley-red goodness. That, and his cherry pipe tobacco. However, I digress.
Did you know that there are different kinds of beets, all with differing colors and tastes? Farmer Dave’s (quite consistently) has 3 kinds: red, golden and chioggia (pronounced kee-OH-gee-uh) or candy-stripe beets. Both the golden and candy stripe (in my humble opinion) are slightly sweeter than the red and less “earthy”. Tto me, the golden beets are like candy, so sweet when roasted that they really need nothing else. Although I do like to give them some festiveness. Try roasting them (see tips below) then slicing them. Add some cheese (the maple infused or herb creamy cheese from West River Creamery would be fantastic), sliced red onion and toasted, chopped pistachios. Layer on a bed of arugula or mixed greens (Flats Mentor Farm has fantastic, sweet-spicy arugula) and dress with a simple orange vinaigrette (3 parts oil to 1 part cider vinegar and 1 part orange juice, a squeeze of honey, a tablespoon of grainy mustard, salt & pepper). Deelish.
What about the candy-stripes? Oh, those are my “go-to” beets. I grate them raw and put them in everything! Any kind of green salad, egg salad (the color is GORGEOUS!), tuna salad, chicken salad…you get my drift here? Last year I did a demo featuring a salad with candy stripe beets, grated carrot, grated zucchini and quinoa. Total yum. Just scrub the beets really well, trim the ends, remove any blemishes and slice thinly or grate – no need to peel. Get creative! They have a sweetness and crunch to them along the lines of jicama or a radish (without the peppery bite). Come to think of it, a salad with candy stripe beets and radishes with a lime vinaigrette would be fabulous! 🙂 Or cut the beets into matchsticks, toss in a handful of herbs and some sliced scallions and dress with a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of lemon juice (don’t forget to season with salt & pepper!). Perfect for a hot summer evening. Add a watermelon agua fresca (with a splash of vodka) and some grilled Copicut chicken and you’ve got the perfect dinner!
So go get your beet on, my friends! And if you’re still on the fence, stop by the manager’s tent and I’ll walk you through the land of beets!
Until next time, eat well and nourish your soul!
To Roast: find beets of roughly the same size (so they all cook evenly in the same amount of time). Trim the stem ends and leave the root (unless is is very long). Scrub them well and place in a layer of aluminum foil. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and wrap tightly in the foil. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for an hour or so (maybe a bit longer). Test for doneness by piercing the beet with a sharp, thin knife. You want the blade to slide easily through the beet. When the beets are done, pull them out of the oven and leave them in their sealed foil packet. Allow to cool then pop in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. Once cooled the beet skins will slip right off. Now you’re ready to use the beets in your favorite recipe.
For Raw Beets: after grating or slicing raw beets, transfer immediately into a bowl of cold water and store in the fridge. The cold water helps keep the beets crisp and fresh and prevents them from turning brown. When ready to use, drain and blot dry with paper towels.