Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Raw Deal with Beets

I’ve eaten blowfish sushi in Osaka, made from the most poisonous fish around. I’ve had fresh black truffles on risotto in Milan. And bear meat at a Russian restaurant in Helsinki. All manner of odd fungi, seaweeds, roots, tubers, fruits, barks, who knows what all. But I do not think I have ever had a raw beet before. In any form.

Such a common thing. Never tried it.

I think my parents associated beets, turnips, rutabagas, etc., with the depression and the war (WWII). Things you ate because you had to. Things that probably grew in their victory gardens. Once the bad times were over, it was steak the rest of the way. Vegetables were sort of an afterthought, usually served with little concern as to taste or appearance. Vegetables often came in the form of onions in the wine sauce spooned over the steak. Or deep fried onion rings or French fries. Maybe some iceburg with blue cheese dressing.

Veggies were viewed as a sort of medicine. Apparently good for the body. But a tablespoon of veggies, that’s enough medicine for one day. Once the medicine was down, it was on to the steak and fries.

So my relationship with vegetables more exotic than iceburg was slow and torturous.

Imagine that I actually went vegetarian, for quite a long time, consuming lots of a very limited array of non-meat items.

But things expanded quickly after living in Europe for 10+ years. Where most countries know how to prepare a tremendous array of vegetables. Things I’d seen before, even tasted, but never with so much flavor.

Still, the beet came away short.

We eventually discovered roasted beets. Wow! Now that was a revelation. Fantastic. As soup, in salads, in risottos, as ice cream, on and on it went.

But I had been seeing occasional recipes for raw beets. Mostly salads of some sort. And my restless nature eventually decided that I had to try some raw. No matter how horrible. Just to say I’d done it.

I will say one thing – a roasted beet is one kabillion times easier to work with than a raw beet. The roasted beet peel comes off with zero effort. A raw beet is a bit of a bear to peel. And once it is a little peeled, it starts to squirt out of your hand at every opportunity. So you are not only chopping at it with all your might to get the peel off, but you are trying to keep it in your hand at all, and prevent it from staining everything in the kitchen.

And to make it edible, most recipes suggest either grating it, or slicing it on a mandolin.

Well, some day I’m going to get a mandolin. But at the moment I just have a sharp knife. So cutting this tough, fibrous root into sub-sixteenth inch slices was time consuming. And hazardous to the fingers.

The good news is that the blood from the finger wounds is not really visible in the final result.

I’m not prepared yet to say that the effort was worth it. The salad was excellent. The ginger and apple flavors really complemented the beet. And I love the flavor of sesame oil in general. But next time I make it, I’m going to have that mandolin. For my fingers sake!

Beet Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette
Based on a recipe from Gourmet Magazine, April 1994
Adapted by surfindaave

1/4 cup minced shallot
2 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Asian (toasted) sesame oil
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cups peeled raw beets (about 3/4 pound), sliced into 1/16” slices, then cut into matchsticks
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into matchstick pieces
parsley for garnish, if desired
sesame seeds for garnish, if desired

In a bowl, whisk together the shallot, ginger, and garlic with rice vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking.

Gently toss the beet and apple pieces with the dressing. Garnish with the parsley and sesame seeds. Serve. Enjoy!

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Anonymous Buy Viagra online said...

I love beets, one of my favorite ingredients for the food, thanks for this one.

7:44 AM  

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