Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Beets are Green

For a long time I’ve been wanting to write on Green Parenting about food and co-ops and eating. I still do, but I thought that to inaugurate this series, I’d begin by offering an appetizer, whose importance is only clear if you understand that, as a child, beets came in sliced, gelatinous-looking form out of a can. They only came out at Thanksgiving, thank gods. I hated them. But instinctively, I knew that with such an intriguing color, there had to be more to beets than what I knew. When I moved out on my own, I began buying beets. I made a series of shredded salads nobody really liked. I didn’t like them much, even. So, despite how cool looking they are when they come attached to their greens, how satisfying it is to peel the beet and find that startling color beneath such roughshod skin – the sort of reddish purple I imagine a younger, more-hip-than-traditional queen or king would wear – I tried to stop buying them.

Tried, operatively. I mean I couldn’t help but buy the beets. As the naïve, young soap opera heroine is attracted to the louse dressed in black leather, whiskey, and a moustache, so, too, have these breathtakingly beautiful, bulbous roots been irresistible to me.

And I knew they were no good for me, they never had promised to be anything but otherwise. I watched bundle after bundle of them rot, heartlessly, half-grated, in their bin. Sometimes they’d go in a stir-fry, and taste not-horrible. Initially, it’d make me swoon, but upon further reflection I realized that’s not what I was looking for in my relationship with this vegetable. So, I used them to dye a couch, as you know, but that’s a sort of once-in-a-lifetime endeavor. And, I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but the event turned out tragically. The couch faded and looked stupid after a couple months. I gave it away, to a family with a good cover.

So last night, when I decided to do something with the beets the co-op had given me in a mixed share I’d pre-purchased the week before, I wasn’t expecting much. The recipe basically calls for grating beets, adding flour, and frying them in giant pancake form, in butter. Sounds gross.

But, by jingos, it isn’t. It is perfect. The butter flavors the beets, the beets get crisp. It tastes gourmet. It is simple to prepare. It is exciting. I am going to share it with you, as Mark Bittman, shared it with me in How To Cook Everything: Vegetarian Cooking. Bittman has served me poorly in a few other recipes...I get this feeling he doesn't believe in vegetarian food, but most recipes I like a lot. And wow did he come through with the Beet Roesti with Rosemary.

• 1 to 1 1/2 pounds beets
• 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 cup flour
• 2 tablespoons butter

1. Trim the beets and peel them as you would potatoes; grate them in a food processor or by hand. Begin preheating a medium to large non-stick skillet over medium heat.

2. Toss the grated beets in a bowl with the rosemary and salt, then add about half the flour; toss well, add the rest of the flour, then toss again.

3. Place the butter in the skillet and heat until it begins to turn nut-brown. Scrape the beet mixture into the skillet, shape it into a nice circle, and press it down with a spatula. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the bottom of the beet cake is nicely crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Slide the cake out onto a plate, top with another plate, invert the two plates, and slide the cake back into the pan. Continue to cook, adjusting the heat if necessary, until the second side is browned. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings, time: 20 minutes


chuck said...

all praise the beet! may i add that roasting the beet, as one might roast a head of garlic, is just as good as anything else you might do with them? because it is. succulent would be the word. also, save the greens and cook steam them like kale, or swiss chard.

beets are so good for the liver, for those of us living in heavy pollution areas (and in close proximity to groovy bars . . .).

rajmankad said...

The beets Miah made were really good. She's telling the truth. I was there.

Lou said...

I'm definitely going to try that. I get beets all of the time too, but I can't get my husband to eat them in the boiled, pickled, or ensalada'd way. So I end up eating all the beets, and well, that's just not good...

Leontine said...

I just found your blog and I love it and I will try this recipe. I spent way too much of my college career photographing beets and trying to reproduce them in plaster. Hooray for beets!

cake said...

mark bittman rarely lets me down. though, we don't have the vegetarian one. a have been amazed at what we have been able to create just by following his instructions.

i made a zucchini bread recipe from him though, which did not turn out so good. i was trying to use up a bunch of zucchini's i purchased (from the co-op) that i had planned to leave on my neighbor's porches on august 8 for "sneak zucchini on your neighbor's porch night" but of course, aug8 came and went, and i still had all these lovely organic zucs. so, i thought i could just triple the recipe. i don't recommend doing that. i think i had to over mix the batter because the bowl was way too full, plus, something probably needs to change in the proportions when you triple a quick bread, or at least that is what my friends who are better cooks than i tell me... anyway, great story, can't wait to try the beet recipe.