I have always been leery of beets. It is only a natural response to a vegetable that appeared unsuspectingly throughout my youth in what first looked like chocolate cake. Sure, on the outside it looked safe, the white cream cheese frosting telling you to take a bite, the faint brown color beneath making you believe it was chocolate, but it was only partially so. The secret ingredient to this cake was beets, and it didn’t hide itself very well. It showed up in the red flecks between the chocolate color, in the weightiness of each bite, and the occasional unprocessed bit that fell between your teeth.
No, for a child who grew up eating beet cake, a general distrust – no dislike – is to be expected. So for the past three years my heart has fallen a little bit when I see the red monsters hiding at the bottom of the box. I’ve tried to like them, with not much success. During my first year of CSA membership I tried roasting and pureeing them, but no matter the shape, they always came out the same. I just couldn’t shake the taste of the beet-ness, something to me that tasted like the dirt they grew in.
Last fall I felt a small triumph when I actually enjoyed them in borscht. But today, when the temperature is about 80 and the humidity is nearly as high, soup sounded unappetizing. So I went searching for cold recipes typing the words “beet hate recipe” into Google. I found I was in good company, with these words appearing in more than 12 million results.
Amid discussions of aversion for the red rocks, I found some interesting recipes, including beet ravioli and beet roesti, which were intriguing, but would require a trip to the grocery store. Instead I looked again at the salad from my CSA newsletter. I had everything I needed on hand: chick peas, spinach, walnuts, feta cheese, which I would substitute for the goat cheese in the recipe, and of course beets and red onions from my delivery.
The recipe said I could use raw or roasted beets for the salad, and I chose roasted since I wanted to remove as much of the beet flavor as possible. In a feat of fearlessness, I dared myself to try one of the raw beets as I was cutting them up. I lifted it to and lowered it from my mouth a few times before actually taking a bite and was shocked to find that it actually tasted good. It still tasted earthy, but definitely not dirt-y.
After roasting the beets in some balsamic vinegar and olive oil they tasted even better and I was tempted to eat them just like that, but I wanted to finish what I started and make the salad. I wasn’t disappointed. You can see from the picture that the salad is beautiful and it tasted just as good. I even had seconds.
So now, I have a dilemma. I had planned to try out the beet cake recipe the next time I got some to see if it tasted any different as an adult. I have been thinking about it for the past few years and had decided this year would be the year I revisit the past. But now that I know about this salad, beet cake may just have to stay in my memory, a relic of when I used to hate beets.
Monday, July 5, 2010
Posted by Catherine Lanser at 6:51 PM