Monday, December 28, 2009

Beet It

I am bogged down with indexing, carefully listing beet after beans and going over proofs right now, but I wanted to tell you about the market this last weekend of the year.

It's winter now and roots--rutabagas, parsnips, potatoes and beets--are everywhere. My favorites, beets. Though that wasn't always the case. I grew up hating beets but my only experience was the canned versions. Once I sampled fresh local Northwest beets, I was won over.

I stopped at Nash’s Organic Produce since they offered a varietyof beets for sale.

Since I'm working on the final proofs, here's an excerpt about beets from my book now called, THE NORTHWEST VEGETARIAN COOKBOOK: 200 INSPIRED RECIPES THAT CELEBRATE THE FLAVORS OF OREGON AND WASHINGTON. (published by Timber Press May 2010).

Beets have been around since prehistoric times, and centuries ago they grew wild near the coast in Europe. While many Americans have encountered only pickled beets in salad bars, Northwest farmers cultivate a wide variety of beets. Albino, golden, candy-striped, and Chioggia beets (pronounced kee-OH-ja) are unique varieties that don’t bleed purple over everything. Among the red varieties you can choose baby, red, and cylindrical beets. Look for bunches with firm roots and deep-colored fresh greens attached. The leaves should be cooked within a day or two. In the winter, the greens aren’t available. The roots will keep for weeks in the refrigerator, stored in a plastic perforated bag in the vegetable bin.

I also offer these tips and observations on beet selection and use.

  • Beet flavor varies with age and size more than any other vegetable, says Barbara Kafka in Vegetable Love. As beets age, they become less sweet.

  • Choose small or medium beets; these are more tender than large ones.

  • Most prevalent use of beets is in salads

  • Baking is the best way to preserve beet’s earthy-sweet flavor.

I found some of the most creative beet recipes in Vegetable Love by Barbara Kafka. Have I mentioned how I love this book? Some Kafka’s innovative recipes include:

  • Rhubarb Energy Beets

  • Ruby-red Beet Biscuits
  • Beet Sorbet, and Beet and Apple Strudel

I created this recipe while perusing other ideas for beets:

Beets with Orange-Berry Sauce

I used two medium sized cylindrical beets for this recipe and after I was finished realized that since I'd used frozen berries in the sauce, the beets wouldn’t store as long as it would if I used raspberry vinegar. The upside is these beets taste so good, they won’t stay around that long. I used Rent’s Due Ranch raspberries frozen from last summer’s harvest for this one. You can purchase locally grown, frozen raspberries from Willie Green’s Organic Farm at the University District market.

4 cups sliced beets

1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/4 cup frozen raspberries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

1.Steam beets until tender. While beets cook combine orange juice, zest, raspberries, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

2.Drain steamed beets, reserve water. Pour sauce over beets and gently mix, adding a little beet water, if necessary. For best flavor, allow to marinate for 1 hour before serving.

Can Finn wait one hour?

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