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The Beet(en) Generation

31 May

Getting back into the groove after a long, relaxing vacation can be no easy feat.

The house always looks a little sad and dejected and in need of cleaning. The fridge is always empty. There’s a mountain of laundry to be done. Photos need to be uploaded and sorted. Spam needs to be deleted. Bills need to be payed. In fact, it can be so depressing, all that hard won relaxation can just *poof* disappear.

U of C Boulder Campus

But this time was different.

A few months back I started some basil and sage plants from seed. I fretted over their survival endlessly before leaving for Colorado. I had no plant nanny to look after them, no self-watering pots. I had to put “the kids” out on the back fire escape and hope that nature would take care of them, that they would learn to stand on their own.

And just like real kids who have been granted their freedom, my “kids” thrived. This was exactly the result I was hoping for. I had promised myself and The Boy that if they survived the week we were gone, we could plant a real “garden” on the fire escape.

Baby Sage

And so on the bright, balmy first day back, we hauled home 40 pounds of potting soil, various pots, 6 pepper plants, 4 strawberry plants, 1 English thyme plant, 1 French lavender plant and 6 tomato plants of 3 varieties. We sat on our front stoop, arms and legs covered in dirt and transplanted all the new “kids” into their new homes. Neighbors stopped by to chat and offer encouragement and extra pots. It made being home feel that much more amazing.

I also planted some radish and carrot seeds. Nigel Slater wrote in The Kitchen Diaries that radishes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in one’s kitchen garden; that they’re fast, can be planted multiple times in one year, and obviously delicious.

Peppers, Basil, Strawberries, Lavender, Sage, Thyme & the future home of Radishes

I’m sure Nigel meant that they’re wonderful to grow in terra firma, but we thought we’d give it a go in a container. So far the radishes have gone gonzo, they sprouted in one day, and are already about 1/2″ high (my “kids” are such overachievers!), the carrots? Not so much. There’s maybe 2 sprouts to be seen. But I’m sure they’ll catch up. Carrots are the smartest vegetables in the root vege family.

With so much time lavished on the hopes and dreams of dinners future, I totally forgot to think about dinner present. There was nothing in the fridge so I turned to my pantry. As usual, she had my back.

High up on the top shelf, shyly hiding behind my box grater was a vacuum-packed flat of roasted beets.


Years and years ago someone gave my Mom Diane Seed’s More Great Pasta Dishes (the “More” is a reference back to her original work, The Top 100 Pasta Sauces, also worth searching out). I was vegetarian at the time, so Mom methodically worked her way through all the veggie recipes until she got to one that caused a serious kerfuffle amongst the family.

Me: Mom, what’s for dinner?

Mom: Pasta with roasted beets?

Me: Whaaaaat??? EWH! But Moooooooooom! That sounds disgusting!

Step-Dad: Awh gee Beck, really? Pasta? With Beets? I think I have to go with Annie on this one.

Mom: Oh will you two just stop. I’m going to make it, and you’re going to eat it.

And make it she did. And eat it we did. Every. Last. Speck.

I think my step-dad might have even licked his plate.

Beet Pasta

The concept is a little strange, but ohmygod, this might just be the one of the best pasta dishes on the face of the earth. My step-dad now requests it every year for his birthday dinner.

I prefer to roast my own beets, but as anyone who has ever roasted their own beet can tell you, beets take a loooong time to roast. It was Sunday at 6pm. I was not about to tromp out to the Korean deli, buy beets and then wait two hours for them to cook, oh no, not when I had some already roasted, and diced I might add, on hand.

And so as I stirred and whirred I was able to simultaneously scare the beejezus out of some baby squirrels that wanted to play in all my freshly planted dirt. Fred may have disappeared, but luckily the next door neighbors tuxedo cat (whom we have dubbed Black Fred (you know, like Black Bart, the pirate and/or cowboy)) is always up for chasing and harassing squirrels. And I think having her around has worked. I’ve seen no more evidence of squirrely activity since then (knock on wood).

Beet Pasta

The boy was as skeptical about this dish as my step-father and I were all those many years ago, but just like us, he was won over by the earthy, sweet, salty and minty sauce. In the past I’ve made other variations on this dish. I’ve made it as a pasta salad (pretty good) and as a risotto (very good). Someday I’d like to adapt it into a soup as well, maybe with a mint pistou.

And so, plants planted, beet phobias set aside, emails deleted, pictures sorted, house tidied, we’re both impatiently awaiting tonight’s dinner when we get to eat the leftovers with some local asparagus thrown in for good measure.

My stomach’s already rumbling in anticipation.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Beet Pasta.

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