Ok, despite previous proclamations, I don’t know if I can only eat only bread and melty cheese between now and the start of spring. While it is tempting, you are what you eat and in this case that would be slightly white and soft… and well, you get the idea.
I typically start each day with an Emergen-C, not that it keeps me from getting sick, but it makes me feel like I’ve gotten some vitamins at least. However, gaining nutrition through mysteriously fizzy powders probably isn’t the best idea, so I make an effort to eat some real veggies several times a week. While kale and brussels sprouts are favorites, beets aren’t far behind.
*photo by Craig Cloutier
“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious. Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets. The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip… The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies. “
—Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume (a great read if you haven’t checked it out)
I think my favorite line in all that is “The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot.” You need only handle a fresh beet once to know exactly what he’s talking about.
Aside from their contagious color, beets ooze nutrition. I mean, how can you eat a beet and not feel healthy afterward? They’re full of vitamins, antioxidants and folate… some say they even cleanse your blood. I swear, eating beets is almost as good for you as a spin class. And you don’t even have to leave the house. (I know, I wish.)
I generally just chop the beets and throw them on a baking sheet to roast. There’s almost nothing easier. But I’ve also been known dress them up with risotto and a poached quail egg. And don’t even get me started on pairing them with goat cheese. Yes it’s good, but have you noticed that every restaurant in town serves them that way?
While I’ve been known to snatch a beet slice off the cutting board and snack on it raw, it hadn’t really occurred to me to serve them that way (same goes for asparagus). Enter culinary enthusiast Mark Bittman, who posted a recipe for raw beet salad a few months back. Raw beet salad? Why not?
I took a cue from his intro and added a few carrots to the mix. I also nixed the onion (not a huge raw onion fan) and the mustard (I’m out!). With the grating blade on my Cuisinart, making this was pretty quick and simple. If you’re grating by hand, gloves might be a good idea. Unless you don’t mind looking like a murderer returned to the scene.
Paired with a leftover meatloaf sandwich and the salad’s crunchy sweetness was a great foil for the heavy savoriness of its companion. In contrast to so many winter dishes, the flavor is fresh and earthy, like a tropical breeze in the midst of all these snowflakes. Eating it makes me yearn for summer. In the future, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it as a topping on a meaty sandwich like pulled pork. Or on Meatless Monday, with a veggie burger.
Raw beet salad
(Inspired by Mark Bittman. Perfected by me.)
1 lb beets, peeled
3 medium carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Grate the beets and carrots using a box grater or the grater blade on a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl and add parsley, vinegar, oil and seasonings. Mix well. Serves 6.