Friday, April 20, 2012

Nobody Likes Beets?

If you're like me, you've never given beets much thought and have certainly never considered them the undisputed star of a meal.  If anything, they've been a curiousity.  You've heard that they're good for you (they are very red), but that's about it.  Perhaps you think they're sort of an odd or even comical vegetable, if only because of Dwight Schrute's obsession with them on The Office.  The sad truth is that most people agree with Michael Scott when he tells Dwight that "nobody likes beets."

I was no exception to this rule, even though beets were an ever-present vegetable in our home growing up.  My dad always had an amazing vegetable garden (see Who is Sausage Boy? for more).  And he and my mother loved beets.  We pickled dozens upon dozens of jars of them, we put up or canned at least that many more.  But when they were served for dinner, the face I made rivaled the one I reserved for when I was forced to choke down lima beans.  Histrionics, really.  Ask my dad about this face and this reaction.  I seem to remember him doing a pretty good imitation of it at my pre-wedding rehearsal dinner.  When those cooked beets came to the table I practically gagged.  I simply could not abide them

Fast-forward to today however, and, well, Michael Scott, I have to disagree with you.  It now appears that I, for one, do like beets.  At least in these recipes.  I love them in these recipes actually.

I was reintroduced to beets in my adult life just recently during my 15-day juice fast back in February and March (see Who is Sausage Boy? Part II for more on that).  A juice I came to love (from The Juicing Bible) was one called Blazing Beets:

Blazing Beets (Juice)

3 beets with tops
1 piece ginger, peeled (about 1" long)
2 apples
1 clove garlic
2 celery stalks
1 jalapeno pepper
(yes, 1 whole jalapeno pepper)

Blazing indeed!!  I had this for many of my "dinners" on my juice fast.  One of the places I got beets (C-Ville Market) sells them "de-topped," so I used a few big handfuls of kale and spinach in place of the beet greens.  I think I liked it even better this way, considering the nutrient density of spinach and kale.

Beets as Food (imagine that!)

As my juice fast was coming to end, I not only looked through cookbooks I already owned for recipes, I also bought two vegetarian/vegan specific ones, including How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  The first chapter is "salads" and there I found this recipe for Raw Beet Salad, which is now one of my staples (Simple Carrot Salad and Triple Cabbage Zinger being the others as of now).  And as for the photo, what can I say?  It's my first attempt at food photography.  I'm not sure how many of you other food bloggers make it look so good.  I think I went through at least two dozen photos before I found one that made the dish look even vaguely appetizing.  And I feel like even that is stretching it.  If anyone's got any pointers, please share!

Raw Beet Salad

3 medium sized beets, washed and peeled
1 large shallot
1 sprig fresh tarragon, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

For the dressing:
1 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (sorry super fat-free vegans!)
2 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

1.  Use a box grater to grate the beets (you know they're messy, right?) and put in a large bowl.
2.  Finely mince the shallot (very finely, otherwise they overpower) and add them to the beets. 
3.  Mix the dressing ingredients together and then toss with the beets and shallot.
4.  Add the herbs, mix together and serve.

One of the great things about this salad is that, because beets are so hearty I guess, it really lasts for a while in the fridge.  I've had the same batch in the fridge for four days, and just kept taking a bit out to bring to work for lunch.

One variation, which I've yet to try, is to add shredded cabbage and some roughly chopped navel orange to this, which sounds pretty fantastic to me!  I'll report on that soon, as I've got some more beets and cabbage still in the fridge just looking to be eaten.

One final note about these ruby red root vegetables.  Not only was I potentially going to call this blog "Meats to Beets," beets are also one of the ten "superfoods" featured in another  book my wife and I just finished reading called The 10 Things You Need to Eat: And More Than 100 Easy and Delicious Ways to Prepare Them.  A great book, and not vegetarian/vegan specific.  There's really no one who couldn't benefit from reading it and incorporating some of its advice.

Eat your beets - and I hope you enjoy them!

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