Sunday, August 16, 2009

A roasted beet revelation.

I've fallen. Hard. The culprit? Beets.

roasted beets.

Beets are among the family of vegetables that are commonly misunderstood -- siblings to the turnip, the Brussels sprout, spinach. Insert any of these vegetable names to the end of the following sentence, and you'll know what I mean: "Tommy (or Billy, or Katie, or Jeane-Claude), you can't leave the table until you finish your [blank]."

From an early age, children are trained to hate these vegetables. They're denied toys, television, ice cream, sleep, and forced to sit chained to the dining room table and stare at a plate of cold food. And who do these children blame for their pain and suffering? The beets, of course (or the turnips or Brussels sprouts, but for the sake of this particular story, let's just say it was the beets).

beet greens.

I mean, you never really hear anyone say, "Mmmm, I just looooove turnips" or "Can I have more Brussels sprouts please?" And if you do, that person is probably accustomed to getting weird looks. Lately, I've been professing my love for beets to anyone who will listen. I haven't gotten that many weird looks yet, but I think that's because they're just trying to be polite. Gotta love Murdo for being honest, though -- I believe his response was, "Yuck." He says that a lot when I gush over vegetables.

beets, raw and dirty.

It doesn't help the poor beets' campaign that they're hideous things, raw and bunched together in dirty, gnarly bundles, with tough skin and twisted tails not unlike a small rodent's. But after trying them roasted from a salad bar a few weeks ago and coming back for more every other day since then, I decided that it was definitely time to tackle the vegetable on my own. I had no idea what an eye-opening experience it would be for me.

beets, roasted and wrinkled.

Is eye-opening a freakish way to describe my feelings toward roasting beets? It's the only word I can think of right now that can explain how cool it is to watch these things transform from hairy beast to smooth, polished jewel.

After trimming, scrubbing, and roasting for 40 minutes in a half-inch of water, I peeled back the ugly skin to reveal bright flesh: tender, smooth, delicate, RED. They kissed everything they touched, leaving lipstick smudges on my fingers and paper towels. It was like finding treasure. And eating them? Every time I take a bite, I feel like I'm tasting the earth, deep and rich, in a garden, having lunch with Mother Nature herself.

peeling.

I think the key to loving beets (or spinach, or turnips) is discovering them for yourself. I can't force little Jeane-Claude to eat his vegetables, but I can give him this recipe, and show him these pictures, and maybe if I'm lucky, he'll just be polite enough to try them on his own. And then maybe he'll fall hard, too. And maybe you'll fall hard with him.

roasted beets.

Roasted Beets

Be sure to scrub the beets and trim away (but don't toss!!!) the greens. The greens can be treated like any other leafy green, such as kale or spinach. I sauteed mine with olive oil, onions, and cherry tomatoes and topped with a fried egg. But enough about the greens. The real stars are red.

6 small beets, scrubbed and trimmed (or 3-4 large or medium)

Preheat oven to 425 F. Place scrubbed and trimmed beets in a baking dish in 1/2 inch of water. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and place in oven. Roast for 40 minutes, depending on size. Mine were pretty small, as I've read that smaller beets are more tender, but medium beets should be roasted for 45 minutes and larger beets, 50. They're done when easily pierced with a fork.

Drain the dish and allow beets to cool. When cool enough to handle, use plastic glove or paper towels to peel/wipe away the skin. You'll be amazed at the transformation. Slice and toss into a salad with fresh herbs and dressing, or eat plain, like I did.

16 comments:

  1. Jacqui. Bless you. I will try this, and I will cross my fingers that your vegetable adoration rubs off. Perfect timing! Stay tuned.

    ReplyDelete
  2. i adore veggies too!! Can't say I'm big into turnips yet, but I do enjoy a good roasted beet. I love that you shared something simple, appreciating it for it's natural goodness!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've been looking forward to your treatment of beets! Can't wait to try them your way... An aside: I grew up in New England eating beet greens, more than the beets, which were "put up" for winter use. The greens were simply boiled for a short time and served with vinegar. I still love them this way. (We used to eat brussels sprouts boiled and served with vinegar as a condiment, but now I prefer them broiled.)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Two things you'd appreciate.

    1)My first intro to beets was with mom at Jewel when you were way wee. She was trying a new diet that called for beets. She picked up a beet, turned it over several times questioningly, looked around, and then proceeded to ask people around her how to cook and prepare them. She had no clue what to do!

    2) You should read Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. He idolizes the beets in that book, but not for its food qualities. A good read!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love that your mom had the confidence to ask complete strangers how to cook beets! Very cool...

    I read "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" years ago and loved it. It's an American classic, but I've never read any of Robbins' other novels, so I just ordered "Jitterbug Perfume" for my Kindle. Knowing your love of literature and what you buy for Mira makes me wholeheartedly trust your recommendations! Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ronni, Jitterbug Perfume is my favorite Tom Robbin's read. I've always looked at the beet differently since reading it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. shanna - yes! i expect a full report, complete with photos, by the end of the week. :)

    sprouted k - seriously, i can't get over how delicious beets are just plain. they're made to stand alone, i feel -- even when tossed in a salad, their crimson color just rubs off on everything else, like the beet can't stand to not be the center of attention.

    mrs. p - greens and vinegar, sounds simply delicious! i'll have to try that. let me know how you like your roasted beets! (and look at that, you can find recipes AND book recommendations at my blog!)

    j - that is an awesome story about mom and beets. did she ever make them? i just emailed her and told her she has to try them this way.

    i started reading Still Life with Woodpecker and decided t. robbins just isn't my style. but maybe i'll try Jitterbug Perfume, if only for the beets.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love love love brussels sprouts and yes, i'm used to weird looks :) Beets I have come into later but i am starting to love them as well...they are also good grated raw into salads or yogurt :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. mmm I love brussels sprouts and spinach AND beet greens. I love me some beet greens. I've never roasted beets, I will try it! I usually just juice them and drink em.

    ReplyDelete
  10. chichajo - i've only had brussels sprouts a few times, but i'm definitely going to give them another chance. i have another bunch of beets left -- maybe i'll try them raw! although i'm so addicted to roasted, i can't make any promises...

    amanda mae - i like your style. and yes! roast them! now!

    ReplyDelete
  11. MMMM! I love beets too! So happy someone else shares the love!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yummm I love roast beetroot too! You should also try raw grated beetroot - it is delicious! My Mum mixes the grated beetroot with orange segments and stirs together to make a really yummy fresh salad (I know it sounds like a weird combo but just try it!) or you could go for the Nigella Lawson recipe with dill and lemon - equally divine! Let me know how it goes if you try it!

    ReplyDelete
  13. lunch monkey - ooooh i do love veggies + lemon! thanks for the suggestions and for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete
  14. girl after my own heart :) :)
    i'm loving your vegetarian section!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hey Kelsey, thanks for dropping by! And I'm loving your blog -- the header makes me so happy. :)

    ReplyDelete