Sadly, I didn’t have a good food childhood. Once my parents divorced, it was mostly canned stuff my mother (or I) prepared, since the only one who cooked was my father. My mother would make the occasional meatloaf, with packaged breadcrumbs and Heinz ketchup. That was pretty much it except for the holidays when all the vegetables we ate would be canned. String beans. Corn. Beets. I wasn’t a fan of any of them, especially the beets. Oye. I thought canned beets were disgusting. I know she tried. She just wasn’t a cook. (Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like them.)
Cut to living in New York City, and a very awkward young man walking through the Union Square Farmers Market. I would only buy potatoes, not sure what else to purchase or do with any of it. I was fairly ignorant of food, until I started working in restaurants. First as a waiter; then, as a bartender. Not only was I learning how to do pattern-making (it went the way of geometry) while attending Fashion Institute of Technology, but I began to acquire knowledge of food and drink. A lot about the drinking. One of my favorite sayings was and still is, “Pour me into a cab.” I learned about wine while working at Soho Kitchen & Bar as well as scotch, cognacs, gins, and beer. We sold over 110 wines by the glass, 60 types of bottled beers with 24 on tap and all could which would be paired with simple bar food, like Spicy Buffalo Wings, pizzas, easy salads. But the star was the grape: chardonnay, cabernet, merlot. The restaurant had on the menu a Grilled Chicken Salad with Roasted Beets. It was a fairly simple meal of grilled chicken breast sliced against the grain, on a bed of mixed greens with roasted beets in a mustard vinaigrette.
But it was the beets that I ate. And ate. And ate. I realized that when cooked properly, they have a sweet, buttery quality with a chewy, yielding texture. I loved them. Their colors are brilliant hues such as a bright orangey, yellow which is tantamount to the color of a fall sunset or the purple, reddish color that reminds me of exotic, richly colored Indian batiks.
Now, I cook them all the time and love every minute of it…and the beet goes on….
Let’s make some beets.
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. While the oven gets up to speed, cut off the beet leaves and save them for a salad the next day. Wash the beets thoroughly and cut up the large ones in quarters, then wrap them loosely in foil. No need to dry the beets before wrapping.
2. Place the wrapped beets on a baking sheet and roast for 50-60 minutes.
3. Let the beets cool before handling them. Using a paper towel, rub the skin off. It should come off easily.
4. Now, cut them up to eat. My favorite thing is to dress them with a little olive oil and mix them into a salad of butter lettuce, bleu cheese and filberts with garlic chives. Awesome!!!