If you can’t beet them
“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)
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@example.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.
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!