Cornucopia, Ch 12
I love beets. Three successive weekly CSA boxes bearing beets only whets my appetite for more beets. In fact, suspecting that next week’s box likely won’t include garden-fresh beets clouds my day. But, let us not dwell on unpleasant things. Today, we have beets.
However many beets grace your diet, it’s not enough. They’re healthy, tasty and incredibly easy to prepare. Not as easy as lettuce or carrots but easy enough.
Beets have been cultivated for at least 4,000 years. When we think of beets, we immediately think of the deep purple/red beetroot. Strictly speaking, “beet” means the entire plant, not just the root. And, while the whole plant is edible, we mostly just eat the beetroot.
Today, the most common beetroot variety is the ruby red but golden beets and other different hued forms are increasingly easy to find. Raw beets should feel firm to the touch. I suggest cooking them promptly because then you’re that much closer to beet consumption. They will, however, hold in a refrigerator’s vegetable crisper.
Three weeks ago, Norm-the-Grower delivered the season’s first beets during the July heat wave. Our house is not air conditioned so oven-roasting or cooktop steaming was out of the question. But, my Belgian-Danish-German-Scottish-Welsh forbearers didn’t leave Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Scotland or Wales to be stymied by Midwestern heat. They passed a gritty determination to their successors. I fired up the gas grill to roast my beets.
The grill isn’t nearly as energy efficient as an oven but, in a pinch, it does the job. I washed and trimmed the beets, leaving several inches of leaf stalk on the root, and then wrapped them in aluminum foil. I placed the beets on the grill’s unlit burner side, closed the lid and adjusted the heat to about 400 degrees. I let the beets roast for an hour.
Unwrapping the beets, I let them cool just enough to slip off the skin without burning myself. You could, at this stage, refrigerate the beets for later use. I sliced them into one-inch thick rounds, artfully arranged them on a plate and splashed a little balsamic vinegar over the lot. I seasoned the beets with salt and pepper, crumbled some feta that I had on hand and served them, still warm, with dinner.
Beets don’t last long in our house but, as problems go, this one is manageable.