AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Farmers' Market Report, Part 2: The Beet Goes On DATE: 7/02/2008 08:44:00 AM ----- BODY:
Beets get a bad rap, though I’m not sure where it comes from. Perhaps it’s a hold-over from the days when the only variety available were canned, leaving them mushy, salty and bland. To me, they are a perfect balance of firm, refreshing texture with a sweet, earthy flavor. Best of all, they are nutritious, so I feel downright virtuous when I consume a bowlful like candy.
Last week, beets appeared at the market. They were shamefully small, and I couldn’t imagine there’d be much left after peeling.

As much as I love beets, it seemed the farmers were rushing the process. This week, however, they were decidedly larger. With the greens still attached I know they are freshly harvested -- beets that have been in storage have the tops cut off as they wither in a few days. Like tomatoes, beets come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes – candy striped with white rings, golden, pink and red. They range in sweetness, the red sometimes cloying by comparison to the lighter colors.

Roasting beets intensifies the flavors and the sweetness. It also makes peeling easier. Before roasting, be sure to scrub the beets well to remove all the dirt. Toss them in some olive oil, wrap in foil, and bake in a 350 oven for an hour or so. Lately, my favorite preparation has been roasted with bacon and onions. While the beets are roasting, I sauté bacon and onions together until the bacon is crisp and the onions are caramelized. When the beets are cooked, I peel and slice them and toss them in the bacon-onion mix. Seasoned with a little lemon juice or mint, they are the perfect accompaniment to salmon (Crusted with pistachios and horseradish) or a pasta carbonara with peas or asparagus. Pureed with a little olive oil or chicken stock, it makes a delightful sauce for just about anything.

Beets with goat cheese are a classic combination. The tart, creaminess of the cheese balances with the sweet, firm texture of the beets. Though, I don’t eat nuts, walnuts add both texture and flavor that some say is the perfect compliment.
Of course, beets stain exceptionally well – hands, cutting boards and clothing. The best remedy is to wash with a paste of cold water and baking soda. Not only does it remove the red from your hands, it leaves them soft as well.

Beets and Goat Cheese Napolean with Buttered Walnuts

1 lb. red beets
2 tbs. olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
1 tbs. red wine vinegar
1-2 tbs. fresh chopped thyme
4 oz. creamy goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Put beets in a pot and cover in cold water. Season water with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer. Continue cooking for 30 minutes, or until skins easily peel off.

2. When beets are cooked, cool under cold running water. Peel beets. Slice. Toss beets with red onions, vinegar, olive oil and thyme.

3. Put beets on a plate, and dollop goat cheese on top. Garnish with mesclun and buttered walnuts

Balsamic Mesclun
1 pound mesclun
3 tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. shallots
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. mustard
½ cup + extra virgin olive oil
pinch sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Put balsamic, shallots, thyme and mustard in a blender. Puree. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar

Buttered Walnuts
1 cup walnuts
2 or more tbs. butter
salt and pepper

Melt butter in skillet. Toss in walnuts and toast until lightly browned and fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Kelly DATE:7/02/2008 10:11:00 AM Thanks for the beets and squash recipes. I love beets, but my husband won't touch them. The bacon might be just the nudge he needs. I've found myself with more seasonal veggies than I know what to do with since getting half a farm share this year. Your site is a great resource for me. Keep the seasonal recipes coming! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:7/02/2008 01:37:00 PM Glad you liked the recipes, Kelly. Bacon does make everything better, so I'm sure you'll be able to entice your husband into trying them. What did you get in your farm share box this week? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) DATE:7/02/2008 02:01:00 PM My husband is a beet fanatic, so it's very possible these napoleons will find their way to my kitchen one of these days. Lovely! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Kelly DATE:7/02/2008 02:35:00 PM My pick-up was last Saturday. We got kale, pretty yellow chard, arugula, spinach, Boston lettuce, Chioggia beets, 1 zucchini, radishes, strawberries, and shell peas. We're barely going to make it through it all before we have another pick-up on Saturday.

I love having fresh veggies, but I really can't handle many more bitter greens. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:7/02/2008 09:54:00 PM Lydia, maybe you can get your husband to talk with Kelly's husband to explain the virtues of beets.

Kelly, good luck finishing your box. Maybe you just need to have more dinner parties? I just had quinoa risotto with wilted greens last night which was fan-tastic! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous bishop22 DATE:7/03/2008 10:16:00 PM I just got some fresh beets from the farmer's market, and used the greens as saag in an indian dish.

I disagree with you on the matter of roasting in foil - I find that merely steams the beets. I prefer roasting them in their own skins, they get gloriously nutty, and the taste mellows quite nicely. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous David DATE:7/03/2008 10:31:00 PM Nothing beats a good beet, but I've switched to golden (orange?) beets most of the time to cut down on the purple stains all over the house. Although its still fun to use a little red beet to turn an entire pot of rice pink. Do you think they taste the same? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:7/04/2008 09:47:00 AM bishop22, Your saag sounds great, and I'm sure it was a lovely hue. I have not encountered the steaming problem you suggest with wrapping them in foil.

David, I don't think the beets taste the same. To me the yellow is a little less sweet and more "mellow." ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Kelly DATE:7/08/2008 09:11:00 AM So beets with bacon and onion were a big success with the husband. My only mistake -- running an oven for an hour yesterday (it's very hot and humid here). It was a day that was perhaps better suited to a cold beet salad. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:7/08/2008 10:47:00 AM Kelly, glad to hear the beets were such a success! It was hot yesterday, and cooking on the grill didn't feel much better though the house did stay cool. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Anonymous DATE:7/11/2009 01:37:00 PM I just returned to my home in Washington, D.C., from a visit with Julia, my (lovely) daughter. For the occasion Julia invited over several other good friends and relatives, and prepared before-dinner "snacks"--her word--to die for: Beets she had grown, and prepared into a beet salad and ricotta she had made, were the stars.

Julia also served crudites with green goddess dressing and marinated mushrooms.
The carrots finely diced and mixed with mushrooms are for me an example of her knife skills. When I say finely diced, I mean little cubes, maybe 3/16ths inch on each side. ----- --------