In Good Season: The Beet Goes On



After a long, wet summer, there are vegetables ready to be harvested. I think everyone will agree that it was not an easy gardening season. Carrots and beets had to be planted twice after the rains scattered the seeds and then washed them away — but here we are in October, intent on beating the frost and looking forward to another (drier) year.

 

Actually, there couldn’t be a better time to eat your vegetables — not just “because they’re good for you!” but because they’ve been pulled from the ground, perhaps as recently as this morning, a little smaller than usual, but fresh! If there’s a secret to good cooking, “just out of the garden” is the answer.

If you don’t believe me, cook about 5 pounds of young vegetables, such as beets, carrots and new potatoes, one type at a time, in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender. (Cook the beets last.) Remove from the water and set aside.

Then, mash 3 peeled garlic cloves to a paste. Transfer this to a bowl and whisk in 3 egg yolks. Whisking constantly, drizzle in 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil, season to taste with salt and fresh lemon juice. You will recognize this sauce as the garlicy wonder called aioli; it produces about 1 cup, enough to cover the freshly cooked vegetables. These amounts will serve 4-6.

Another very elegant recipe comes from Deborah Madison, in “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” — a book that was published in 1998 and is still the best vegetable cookbook that I have ever seen.

Vinegared Beets (Nested in Their Greens)
Serves 4-6

  • 16-24 small beets, with tops
  • 1½ Tbsps. butter or olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsps. balsamic or sherry vinegar

Remove the greens and set aside, discarding any that don’t seem up to snuff, along with the stems. Scrub the beets and steam them until tender 15-30 minutes. Peel and set aside. Steam the remaining greens until tender, about 5 minutes, then toss with half the butter and season with salt and pepper. Arrange them in a nest on a plate. In another pan, heat the beets with the remaining butter. Add the vinegar and shake the pan until the liquid evaporates. Spoon the beets into the center of the greens and serve.

This salad calls for red beets, but if you can find them, golden beets can be used as well. Some greens that complement these sweet vegetables are arugula, mache, watercress and the tender beet greens themselves.


 

Beet & Fresh Onion Salad

  • 4 to 5 (1 ¼-pound) beets
  • 2 handfuls of greens of your choice, or a mixture
  • 2 small fresh red or yellow onions
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Trim the beets, leaving an inch of the stems and tails, and of course rinse off any loose soil. Put them in a pan with ¼-inch of water, cover with foil and bake until they are tender, about 35 minutes, depending on size.

Let them cool, then slip off the skins and slice into ¼-inch rounds or quarters.

Wash and dry the greens and slice the onions into thin rounds.

Quarter the eggs. Make the vinaigrette below.

Gently toss the sliced beets and onions together with all but a tablespoon of the vinaigrette. In another bowl, dress the greens with the remaining vinaigrette. Lay the beets on a platter and set the greens around them. Garnish with the eggs and the chopped parsley and finish with a grinding of pepper.

Vinaigrette:

  • 1½ Tbsps. strong red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsps. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Salt
  • 3 Tbsps. light olive oil
  • 2 Tbsps. walnut oil

Combine vinegars with the mustard and salt, then whisk in the oils. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

(From Deborah Madison’s “The Savory Way”)

 

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