Tag Archives: Beets

The Beet Goes On

9 Oct

Fall is finally here.

My waking days have quietly slipped into a gentle grayness.  Instead of being greeted by wide beams of golden yellow sun streaking through the front window, my mornings are spent in a cozy half-light.  And as the financial crisis rolls on, the last rosy radiations of the setting sun, that just last month greeted me as I left the the office, are becoming weaker and weaker.  Each night it’s a little darker, a little grayer, a little more obvious that summer is really truly over.

I’m fine with this, and in fact love it.  Fall in New York is the most glorious time of the year (even if the Yankees decided to act more like the Knicks and less like the Giants thus robbing me of one of my favorite autumnal traditions).  The air is crisp; the sky is the most glorious, searing, pellucid blue.  It’s scarf and stockings with riding boots and plaid wool skirt weather.  The greenmarket is bursting at the seams with the last of summer’s bounty as well as the radiant oranges, yellows and reds of squash and pumpkins and root vegetables.

And then there’s the weekends upstate.  Walking out the back door is like stepping into a Frederick Edwin Church painting.  The leaves on the trees are just beginning to change, some into shades of orange and red that shouldn’t be possible in nature.  And the smell! Oh the smell.  Dryness and earthiness with a hint of smoke.  Five seconds of breathing it in makes up for all the early mornings and long nights I’ve spent toiling away this past month.

Though we still have a hole in our house from the foul fowl, it looks like we just might (cross your fingers, knock on wood) get that fixed this weekend, and then we can go back to living a normal, turkey-free life (at least until Thanksgiving).

This past weekend was spent planning for the future.  I planted bulbs, which is no mean feat.  Our house was built directly on some geologic feature that makes it impossible to dig any hole without hitting a rock every quarter-of-an-inch.  I’m tempted to name the house “Rockfield.”  It sounds just a wee bit snooty, but is based entirely in truth.  While I was scratching away at the earth, Isaac raked the yard,  also no mean feat.  The house is surrounded by mature and magnificent stands of maples and oaks and birch and elm which are prolific leaf producers.

After all that hard work, we deserved a break, and a delicious dinner.  So we took a drive over to the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store, by the back route, through Spencertown, possibly the most beautiful New England town in all the world that isn’t technically in New England.  From there, we went to visit a farmer I noticed at the greenmarket last Friday.

I had asked Dan, the farmer, where I could buy his beef in Columbia County, since it seems foolish to buy it in the city once its been driven down from upstate only to put it back in a car to drive it back to where it came from, and he said that they sell at the farm on Saturdays.  So we dropped by, got a tour and bought some eggs, sausage and and two chuck eye steaks.

Fully provisioned, I hit the kitchen to make some borscht.  Everything was going along just swimingly until I began peeling the beets Isaac had bought at the greenmarket.  With each swipe of the blade, the beets became less rosy, and more, well, white.  Dammit!  He bought me chioggia beets!  Well, at least the back-up beets I had procured at Hawthorne Valley would be red, I thought.  And then I started peeling my beets… Ach du liebe, scheisse! I had done the same thing.  We had been bamboozled by the beets!

Ah, well, nevermind.  So the borscht was a little pale, and a little, well, less beety.  But Dan’s beautiful beef really saved the day.  The fat and amazing, clear flavor really, uhm, beefed *groan* up the soup and gave it depth that it might otherwise have been lacking.  I served it with some wine-braised cabbage and big chunks of rye bread.  It was fortifying and delicious, which was good, because we had another big day of yard work ahead of us.

We’re planning to move the garden next year.  It’s technically on our neighbor’s property (though he doesn’t seem to mind) and a little too close to the blackberry bramble, and it’s overrun with weeds and blackberries and we have too much yard, so we’re going to start over.

I brought up a huge stack of Wall Street Journals and New York Times‘, the detritus of the crisis.  We put these down on the lawn in a big rectangle, wet it and then made a huge pile of our leaves on top.  We’re going to do it again this weekend, on an adjacent rectangle of land.  Come spring, all I have to do is put a little compost over top, and dig right in.  Or so I’m told!

So, I’m alright with it being fall.  Things feel like they’re slowing down a bit.  And though my days in the City are a little gray, my weekends are full of joy and color.  It’s a nice balance, even when the borscht isn’t quite the color it should be.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Borscht, Of Another Color.

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Give Beets A Chance

12 Dec

Let’s talk about beets.

They look, and feel, like rocks.

Empire State Building, early winter

And then you cook them. Then the beets lose their rockness and become yielding and silky and aromatic and sweet.

Beets are, of course, essential in making the soup of the moment, Christmas Borscht, but they also lend themselves to an incredibly diverse array of dishes from around the world.

There’s beet pasta, pickled red beet eggs, roasted beets, and squorscht, and that’s just from my site. When you look around the interweb you’ll find beets with horseradish and capers, summer borscht and grated beets with tahini, Pille’s pesto & beetroot appreciation society, red beet mash, celery root soup with pickled beets, beetroot latkes, bulgur risotto with beets, gluten-free beet focaccia, and yes, finally chocolate cake with beets.

Whew!

Union Square Sunset

Many claim to revile beets, which may be fair, especially if the only beet they’ve ever had came from a can, not the ground. All I am saying… Is give beets a chance!

One of the most classic ways to eat roasted beets is on a salad with blue/goat/feta cheese, and/or walnuts, and/or segments of citrus fruit. It crops up on nearly every menu in the city, but the problem is, the salad is rarely well executed. When I’m brave or bored enough with the other appetizer offerings to order the beet salad, I’m usually disappointed. The beets are watery, the cheese isn’t forceful enough, the walnuts aren’t toasted, the dressing is bland.

Last week when Isaac was preparing to hit the Dag Hammarskjold greenmarket I asked him to poke around and buy some beets. I was going to take things into my own hands. I roasted the beets and then concocted a perfectly silly, completely over-fussed with salad of epic proportions.

It’s like a garbage plate, but better for you.

Ann's Beet Salad

This salad is great, and it’s pretty and fancy enough to serve to company over the holidays. It’s perfectly seasonal and delicious, but I must warn you on one thing. The walnuts. Oh my god, the walnuts! I hate walnuts. Hate. But for some reason I felt they were absolutely essential to this recipe, and I was right.

But here’s the thing. Eat them all or get them out of your house fast because they are so addictive. I ended up bringing them to a friend who is a bit of a beer nerd. We figured they’d make an exceptional beer snack.

Spicy-Sweet Walnut Brittle

Beets suffer from bad P.R. They’re pigeonholed. Beets are for salads and borscht and pickles. But you and I? We know this isn’t true. So go on, show me your best beet recipe!

Leave a link in the comments. It can be yours or one you’ve found on a recipe site. This is our chance to spread the word. Give beets a chance!

Head below the jump for the recipe for Ann’s Beet Salad.

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