25 pounds of unwashed root vegetables hit my kitchen last week like a mack truck. This was one of my two CSA’s winter shares, which the farmers offered for the first time this year to increase revenue with their surplus produce. I hate to pass up an opportunity for locally grown organic produce, so I signed up for both CSA’s winter shares.
I wasn’t prepared for the volume. The mud I kind of liked. It reminded me of my rural childhood, that smell of dirt and feeling the grit stream off the carrots, celery root, and potatoes as I washed, and re-washed them in the sink. But the sheer volume of vegetables placed a serious strain on my refrigerator, despite the ersatz “root cellar” I’ve constructed in our Manhattan apartment (my father loved crawl spaces and trap doors, so I tortured my contractor to provide something similar).
I am drowning in beets. The potatoes, carrots, celery root and onions were easy, and last shabbat dinner we had a “root vegetable” theme. But the beets…. Fortunately, I have always liked beets, as have my children, probably because I was raised on home grown beets. It doesn’t hurt that beets are one of the sweetest vegetables known, packing 8 g of sugar in a cup (sweeter than carrots or corn). They are teeming with vitamin A, folate, and fiber, along with lots of other good things.
I also didn’t realize that they are an old world vegetable, brought over here around Napoleon’s time. The Roman’s considered them an aphrodisiac, and they’re great for the colon.
But how to cook them? I did some recipe searches, and realized of course, Borscht. A fantastic soup, with a rich Ashkenazic heritage. I will try it next week. So far I have just done my regular beet preparations.
Boil or steam the heck out of the beets, till soft when pierced with a knife, usually 45 minutes, depending on how big the beet. Peel under running cold water. Cut up into small chunks. Toss with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and sea or kosher salt. The kids love this.
I also do Julia Child’s technique of grating the beets first in my food processor, then sauteeing in olive oil. I finish them the same, with lemon juice and salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. A bit messier, but with my new food processor totally fun.
Sometimes I forget to warn the babysitters that the kids had beets the night before. Most of us cannot metabolize the beet’s purple pigment betacyanin, and it can create a rather colorful toilet bowl.
The sweetness of beets can be offset with great salty flavors, like blue cheese or aged goat cheese, which a lot of chefs take advantage of. I found a recipe for beet nut bread, kind of like zucchini bread, but what about the color? I’m working up the nerve to try it.
Fortunately I have two weeks before the next winter share hits my kitchen.