Wednesday, April 14, 2010

For the (NEW) Love of Beets

Beets were never, ever a food that I enjoyed. Ever. They were messy, wilted quickly, and worst of all, tasted like dirt. Yucky, yucky, dirty dirt. My husband, mom, grandma, all adore the magenta mess of a veg, but I just did not get it at all. So I set out to plant some beets in my little back yard garden in hopes that maybe if I took the effort to grow them, I might just try and like them.

Today I was watering the garden and a mess of ants started to erupt from the bountiful beet square. I knew I had to take them out to see what kind of ant mess was going on there, so out came my premature, but beautiful little beets with gorgeous emerald and dark pink greens. The ants became less and less concern as I marveled over my little beauties. I will deal with those lame ants later...I had to get myself to the cookbooks and find a glorious recipe for these sacrificial beets.

Of course the actual beets were tiny - like super-duper tiny, which was actually ok with me since I kinda (really) didn't like them anyway. In the past, I have roasted the beets in the oven, but these were so little, they may have just shriveled and died in there. I decided on steaming them, which turned out beyond lovely. The greens were next. I found a perfect recipe from my old pal (I wish) Marcella Hazan's Italian cooking bible, Essentials of Italian Cooking. Basically, it is just REALLY good cooking that happens to come from Italy. They are awesome with veg, and know how to use every edible part to its best and brightest incarnation.

So I separated the leaves from the stalks, boiled myself a big pot of salted water and got ready to give beet greens a shot. First the stalks go in since they can be tough, but since these were immature, they were thin and not stringy at all.

Then after about 8 minutes, you slide in the leaves and cook for less than 5 minutes more. So fast! Drain all the water out that you can, let them cool off a bit, hit it with some good olive oil, kosher salt, and a squeeze of lemon...oh geez, now I have to taste them...

Here is where having a garden that you baby and put energy into pays off. NEVER in a million years would I have said, "Oh yes! Beet greens! I am in! Pass them my way and keep them coming!" But these were our beet greens...our little nearly microscopic beets. So I tried a baby beet first, and guess what? Not even a hint of that gag-me dirt taste - just sweet and a hint earthy in an amazing way. Then it was on to the greens. They were reminicent of steamed spinach, but better. No heavy iron flavor - just light and easy. Oh heck, I may not want to become Beet Queen USA, but I have to admit...beets can be very charismatic if you let them be.

Looking for my next inspiration....

You're next Rainbow Chard!


Trish Wallace said...

I'm so happy you had such a amazing experience. I grew up eating beets fresh out of the garden. My mom, having lived during the depression, would cook the stems as well and top with butter and fresh pepper/salt. They became kind of a delicacy in a weird way!! Enjoy your bounty!

HLM said...

Linds you make me want to go plant some beets right this minute! I have always been of the same opinion as you, but baby beets, pulled right from the ground, are the only beets I ever liked too. I had them for the first time last year and was astonished! I have to try your beet greens now. Thank you for the great cooking idea!

You go with your gardening self!!!!!

Ann Brassard said...

Beautiful beets! Beautiful pictures too. As you know I'm letting a few of last years beets go to seed. Now I have to figure out how to collect the seeds - and I know just who to share them with! Off to google land.

Ashley said...

You have such a light and cheerful voice in your writing -- I just love your style Linds! Of course I'm not biased or anything, but you are such a great writer! I loved this piece. When we started going to farmer's markets down here, Ray was really into swiss chard -- I was like yeah! Let's go eat some swiss chard -- bring me some more of that right now!! Yumskins!