With Valentine’s Day approaching, I could be thinking about chocolate... but I’m thinking about the color red. And I might be thinking about strawberries… but I’m thinking about beets!
What inspires me about beets?
DEFINITELY the color. Of all the plants in the plant kingdom, beets have the most electrifying color. I have my kitchen workshop and my art-making workshop, and I play with color in both! Sometimes it’s fun to take a food and look at all the colors that make up the color of that food.
Red is a primary color, but beets are not a singular, primary red. Beets have other colors in them: a little blue, a little purple, some magenta, and fuschia. Beets can look very dark and ruby-esque; or blended into soup, they can bright and magenta-y. Chioggia beets are swirled burgundy and white. Golden beets are a deep, earthy gold.
The key to heavenly flavor: roasting.
When I was little I hated beets. They used to come out of a jar. They were called Harvard beets. Ugh! It took me awhile to start loving beets.
And then I discovered roasting. Beets are VERY sweet when roasted, a whole new, almost addictively delicious thing. Oh, yum.
One of the most electrifying dishes I learned to make in Italy is pasta a la rubino, “ruby” in Italian. Basically a pasta with garlic, olive oil, chili flakes, roasted squares of beets tossed together on a blue plate. An electric purple!
Now I do roasted root vegetables or roasted root vegetable salads, which are very elegant, or pickled beets, or a borscht (both blended and not). I make a stunning electric slaw out of beets (an absolute smash hit on a buffet line!). I slice them very thin and make them into chips, an unexpected and delightful topper for salad or soup. (Don’t you love crunchy things?)
There is nothing better than a beet salad with a little feta, fennel, blood orange… OMG! Or valencia orange and beets! Electrifying.
Painting by Jamie Madison, January, 2017 Jamiemadisonart.com
Your body loves beets.
If you love beets, it might be because your body does. Beets are wonderful for blood pressure, detoxifying blood, heart and liver health. We don’t even need science to tell us how potent they are. Look at the color! The color alone says “MAJOR ANTIOXIDANTS FOUND HERE.” Nothing could manifest that color if there were not some amazing phytochemicals going on within. And this is it! This is their time, their month. February is a great time to cleanse and support our livers and… heart. :)
Beyond Recipes: How to not be intimidated by beets!
When I paint I sometimes use gloves. If you don’t like the staining quality of beets, use gloves. Done!
Although I do think there is something to be said about walking around with purple hands.
The best way to get the skin off is roasting them with the skin on. Then the skin just peels itself off.
If you’re not roasting a vegetable knife or paring knife peels the skin off easily.
Or pop them in boiling water 30 seconds, shock them in cold water and you’ll be able to get that skin off.
With beets you cannot judge a book by its cover. The color is hiding behind its tough, gnarly skin. Unwrap those beets, and... wow!
Sometimes the colors that nature comes up with blow me away. Take the ruby red beets and red cabbage in this soup; they’re as brilliant as the dahlias that grow in my backyard. So, too, is their taste, and when combined with sautéed onion, fennel, and celery, plus cumin, coriander, and caraway, the result is simply luscious. Perfect for your Valentine. :)
There is increasing scientific evidence that the more vibrant the color, the more nutrition there is to be found in a food. I set out to create the most colorful salad I could, using purple beets, orange carrots, and fresh mint. If I’d had a vegetable crisper instead of a box of crayons as a kid, this salad would have been the result. You can substitute lemon or lime juice for the orange juice. This recipe is as dazzling on your family’s dinner table as a buffet line. Or a plate for your Valentine!
This beautiful salad represents a harmonic convergence of tastes. The spiciness of some of the greens in a spring mix is balanced by the avocado’s creamy, healthy fat, while the sweetness of the roasted beets cuts the acidic nature of the citrus dressing.If the beets vary in size, wrap them accordingly so you can remove the package of smaller ones when tender, leaving the larger ones in the oven until they are tender.
EVERYONE DOES CHOCOLATE FOR VALENTINES. LET’S DO BEETS FOR THE ONES WE LOVE! WE’LL DAZZLE THEM WITH COLOR AND FLAVOR AND TENDERLY LOOK AFTER THEIR HEART HEALTH. :)
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