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If you can’t beet them

May 30, 2010

beets in a plate

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip…
The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.”
— Tom Robbins (Jitterbug Perfume)

beet cubes

Not many vegetables can play dramatic roles (unless you count grade school reenactments of salad), but the beet inspired Tom Robbins sufficiently that he made the vegetable the protagonist of his best selling novel. We at innBrooklyn cannot compete with Robbins reach nor with his lyricism but we do perhaps love the beet as much as he does: and it is the vegetable we chose for this month’s Virtual Veg of the Month Club.  Noerah’s tantalizing beet block photo has been sitting on our sidebar for some time but I wanted to share a few thoughts on beets and my latest beet ravioli experiment in the hopes of inspiring everyone to get cooking and submitting to the VVotMC.   We will post the beet roundup on JUNE 10th, please submit by June 9th.  You can submit by emailing a photo of  your dish (600 pixels wide)  and a link to your blog post/recipe (or to flickr if you don’t have a blog) to email@innbrooklyn.com.  Please use the word ‘beets’ in the email subject line.  If you have a previous beet dish, feel free to submit that too.

The vegetable we call the beet, more formally the beetroot, is a member of the vegetable family that includes both leaf vegetables (like chard) and root vegetables (including the sugar beet, source of much of our table sugar). Let its relation to stars of both the root and leaf kingdom inspire you to cook with both parts of the vegetable — many people discard the leaves and this is a mistake, they can be used in place of spinach or chard in many recipes, and can also be frozen if you want to save them for later additions to stocks, stews or pies (to freeze, simply put the washed leaves in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then transfer them to an ice bath to stop them cooking further, pat dry, put in ziplock bags or tupperware and freeze)

I love the versatility of beets which can be used in all sorts of recipes from soup to cake.  I grew up eating borscht, the cold Eastern European soup, served with lashings of sour cream – a fantastically refreshing summer treat. Beet fries make a great alternative to potatoes and their color can really brighten up a plate – a really dramatic rendition can be made by grating beet strings and deep frying a bright pink nest or you can just rub them with olive oil and salt and roast them for the simplest presentation. If you are feeling adventurous, I once made a beet chocolate cake which was dense and moist and could easily convince the vegetable averse to ingest all the vitamin goodness of the sweet root.

beet pasta

If you really want to be inspired the beet pasta photographs on Cakewalk are unbelievably droolworthy! In fact ever since seeing her post many months ago I have been waiting to find beets at the farmer’s market so I could try the pasta at home. Finally I made a big batch and decided to turn some into ravioli . When I asked Rebecca what I should use for the filling she didn’t hesitate for even a moment: homemade ricotta and walnuts. And so I did just what she recommended and it was delicious served simply with a spoonful of brown butter sauce. My only regret is that the pasta lost its vivid color as it was cooking.  The beet pasta recipe is the one posted at Cakewalk, for the filling just use ricotta, homemade or otherwise and mix with some coarsely chopped walnuts.  Yum!

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2010 2:50 pm

    I just love beetroot and for some unknown reason I seldom have it. I love it hot with a sweet and sour sauce. Diane.

    • June 1, 2010 8:38 pm

      Sweet and sour sauce sounds like a great idea: I’ve never had beets that way.

  2. May 30, 2010 4:14 pm

    Love beets, and love that quote “The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.”

  3. May 30, 2010 5:12 pm

    I love Robbins’ book, and I love the way this blog is written. And, well, I love beets. Really great stuff. Thanks.

    • June 1, 2010 8:36 pm

      Sounds like we share a lot of loves! Thanks for the compliment and for visiting!

  4. May 30, 2010 5:24 pm

    Oh dear, this is just amazing…….with the filling??? Oh thanks for the inspiration.
    Kathleen

  5. May 30, 2010 7:38 pm

    I adore beetroot. Love the colour and the flavour.

  6. Bill permalink
    May 30, 2010 11:24 pm

    Really enjoyed the article. I have three large beets in the fridge. Your comment on beet fries got me thinking, and I think tomorrow we will try baked beet chips. If I don’t tell my son what they are, I bet he will like them!

    • June 1, 2010 8:33 pm

      I hope it worked! beets seem like perfect food for kids, so sweet and tasty!

  7. May 31, 2010 12:47 am

    When I saw the beets at the top of the page, I thought I had missed the Veg of the Month Club! Well, I’m back from my little vacation, and I’m rolling up my sleeves, (well, not really since I live in t-shirts…) and getting to work this week. I don’t think I’ll top that beet pasta, however!

    • June 1, 2010 8:32 pm

      we wouldn’t do VVotMC without you! especially not beets. can’t wait to see what you do next!

  8. Jolene permalink
    May 31, 2010 9:34 am

    I have to agree that beets are one of my favourite vegies. I love a good beet salad with crumbled blue cheese and pecans. Yummo! I’ve never had the courage to cook them myself, but now I’m definitely feeling inspired!

    • June 1, 2010 8:30 pm

      i’ve seen you cook, you can do beets!: just be prepared for stained hands!

  9. May 31, 2010 5:06 pm

    “A tale that begins with a beet will end with a devil…that’s a risk we’ll have to take.”

    : )

  10. June 1, 2010 12:02 pm

    I stumbled upon your site through Closet Cooking and love the combination of beautiful photography, great food and organic, sustainable living. I look forward to following your blog. :)

    • June 1, 2010 8:22 pm

      Thank you so much! Its so good to know we have visitors who are excited about green living and who enjoy our food and photography. Come back soon!

  11. June 1, 2010 3:52 pm

    Wow. Those photos are just stunning.

    • June 1, 2010 9:21 pm

      Thanks.. beets are so photogenic. It’s hard to get mess them up. -Noerah

  12. June 4, 2010 3:15 am

    Oh, man, that photo is gorgeous! You know the one I mean–with the stack of diced beets and the green tops in the background. I can’t take my eyes off it. Wow.

    I love beets too. Unfortunately my husband doesn’t like them. He’ll eat them, though, so I get to cook them from time to time. Beet pasta…great idea!

  13. June 7, 2010 12:45 pm

    Talia, gorgeous photography! Yum!

    • June 7, 2010 12:48 pm

      Thanks Jessie: but its really all Noerah taking the photos: I just put things in front of her!

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  1. Beets on parade! « innBrooklyn

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