12 February 2011

Beets, delicious beets!

I got back in touch with my Eastern European roots not long ago when I recorded an album of Eastern European flute and piano music.  Of course, for me that means eating.  And you know what?  I remembered that I love beets.  Do you think that's disgusting?  Well, you just don’t know how to appreciate them.  Here are some tips to lovin' the root vegetables that turn your poo blood-red.

1. Don’t buy them from a can.  You know how canned green beans and canned corn taste very little like their fresh counterparts?  Well, it’s true of all vegetables, dumbass.

2. Don’t buy they biggest ones in the store.  Size matters, but in this case, they are sweeter and more delicious when they’re a little bit smaller, rather than gigantic.  The big ones are either old from having been left in the ground for a while or just lacking in flavor.

3. Cook ‘em like this:

Nicole’s easy, delicious beet preparation

5-6 medium-size beets, with greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced (you can use less if you don’t love garlic)
4 cups fresh spinach
2 cups beef or vegetable broth
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon or horseradish mustard
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sour cream or Greek-style yogurt (optional)

Remove the beets from the greens, trim off the pointy roots on the end, and scrub clean.  Tightly wrap each beet in a square of foil, place all wrapped beets on a baking sheet or in a shallow baking dish, and bake in the oven at 450°F (no need to preheat) for 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim the greens off the stalks, clean, and tear into bite-size pieces.  Clean the spinach, too, and drain all the greens in a colander until you’re ready for them.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat; when the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrot.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and both veggies are soft, about 10 minutes.  At this point I usually throw in a pinch of salt.

Add the garlic, vinegar, and greens and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Stir the mustard into the beef broth and combine thoroughly.  Add broth to the pan, reduce heat to low, and cover.  Allow to cook gently for about 15 minutes.

When the beets are done, remove them from the oven and dump them, still foil-wrapped, into a sinkful of cold water.  This is to avoid burning yourself.  Unwrap each beet and remove the skin, which should almost slide off, with a pairing knife.  Chop beets (they should still be firm) into bite-size pieces and add to the greens that are cooking on the stove.  Stir to incorporate, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve with pierogies (I love the easy recipe from Smitten Kitchen), steamed potatoes, or rice.   Top the whole mess with sour cream or yogurt if you like that (I do).

This kid loves her some beets.