Saturday, June 06, 2009

Bloody Beets

(great photo of beets is from this wonderful website)

Yes, I know. Another food post. You must understand, when it comes to sharing the joys of food, 'I Can't Help Myself'.

Today's food topic of choice: beets.
Fresh beets.
Earthy rough and seemingly tough-skinned beets.
Unbelievably tasty beets.
Bloody beets*.

At the beginning of the 1970's, when I was going through my first 'fresh and organic please' phase of food thought, processing and eating - a good friend and I became obsessed with fresh beets. Up until that time, my buddy and I had not tasted a fresh beet. We'd only ever experienced the rather insipid canned variety.

L and I cooked and ate together often, and one weekend we planned a simple supper of a main course salad, to be served with a loaf of crusty San Francisco sourdough bread. We'd already shopped for the bread, which was so aromatic and fresh (hot from the baker's oven) that we wisely decided to buy two loaves - one to eat while preparing dinner, one to eat with the meal.

Back in L's tiny apartment kitchen (OK, we dug into the hot bread on the way home), we happily set to work, chopping off the pretty green beet tops, washing both root and tops, then setting the big fat roots to a boil. Forty-five minutes later, after plunging the cooked roots in cold water, we were able to slip the skins off with ease. The raw leafy beet tops we'd already sliced and mixed in with organic lettuces. All other ingredients were at the ready for assembly of the salad.

The skinned beets were cool to the touch, yet let off a bit of steam upon being sliced with one of L's sharp kitchen knives. The aroma that reached our nostrils was like an earthy perfume. L and I looked at each other and smiled. Taking in the rich deep color of the beet slices, we smiled again. Both of us not only appreciated, but knew how to coordinate a meal using complementary flavours as well as combining food to create pleasing color combinations at the table. We were, to be sure, self-professed foodaholic / 'aestheticians'.

Let's see....varied greens of the lettuces and avocado, the clean yellow and white from the boiled eggs, sassy pink of shrimp meat, a sprinkling of browny green from toasted pumpkin seeds - and now a lusty red from freshly boiled beets: the salad will definitely look appetizing. To be certain that the addition of beets to our composition was not an error of judgment in flavor, we each grabbed a slice off the cutting board for a taste test.

The firm slice of beet yielded to the tooth, yet maintained a wonderfully crisp bite. Flavor-wise...ooooooh....such a natural sweetness that defies addition of seasonings or dressing. In appearance, sliced beets offer a subtle variation in texture with their built in 'rings' - so it looked pretty too.

L and I were instantly enamoured of 'cooked beet au naturale' and decided that the sliced orbs deserved presentation in a pretty bowl of their own - separate from the salad.

The two of us sat down and proceeded to (very giddily) devour a generously sized salad with all the fixin's, fragrant crunchy sourdough bread and all four of the very large, unbelievably delicious beets.

Though I still, on rare occasion, partake of beets from a can and/or at a restaurant salad bar - those overcooked, squishy and relatively tasteless roots cannot compare to the royal taste treat of freshly cooked beets.

Beets: boiled, roasted, raw.
Eat 'em and weep...tears of joy.

Food post in the not too distant future:
The Sensational Savoy (cabbage).

I know y'all can hardly wait.

* L and I called each other in a panic the next day. Both of us feared (erroneously) that we might require hospitalization. From that point on, we referred to our beet eating initiation as Bloody Beets. Oh what fun!


Conn said...

mmmmmm... home grown... fresh only please. canned... ack. candied in syrup? ACK ACK.they loose the earthiness... and the greens are so delicious.
what a cute story by the way.

Liz said...

too much work. been there, done that, so this is why i just do the old beets in the can!!!! loved the story as well, could so relate

baffle said...

conn - candied in syrup? surely you jest!

not so much work, liz.
i love going through the process.
i also like kneading bread dough and waiting for it to rise - twice.

and i miss rotary dial phones.

Conn said...

yes... IN SYRUP!
It's big in INDIANA! YUCK!

Liz said...

oh my Mom used to make the beets in the syrup, hmmm good and yummie. these old recipes so remind me of her......