As a blogger. How often do you find yourself deciding to make dishes that use ingredients that you don’t even like.
I’m serious. You make your menu for the week (apparently without thinking. At all. Whatsoever.). You go to the grocery store. Navigate the aisles with reckless abandon. Get on line to pay. Which, in the Union Square Whole Foods, wraps around the entire store. And sometimes out the door, if it’s lunchtime or the day before Thanksgiving. So you have ample time to really stare at your prospective purchases. Analyze them. Think about what it means that you are buying these exact things at this exact time in this exact Whole Foods. Ponder the meaning of life. You know how it goes.
And suddenly you think to yourself. I hate everything that is in this cart. Why in god’s name am I making this dish?
I don’t like beets.
They are the only vegetable, besides celery (which I hate with a passion) that I do not like.
Needless to say I blame my aversion on my mother. Since she is the one who convinced me it would be a good idea for her, my aunt, and I to go on one of those fad diets when I was nine/ten-ish that promised to help you lose ten pounds in three days (a godsend to a self-conscious, overweight adolescent). It was so easy. All you had to do was eat.
And that was how I found myself at the kitchen table, gagging down a can of beets, swearing to myself that I would never ingest this disgusting purple vegetable ever again.
That was also when I quit the diet. No amount of weight loss seemed worth this kind of pain. (Although perhaps it should be noted by the folks down at Guantanamo that forced beet-eating might be a useful torture device. And one that is much more ethical than water boarding, to boot.) Plus the next night’s dinner was supposed to consist of a hot dog. And as much as I hate beets. I hate hot dogs that much more.
How did this happen? You may ask.
It all goes back to a few weeks ago when Ashlee of A Year In The Kitchen proposed a new blog event in which we cook our way through Michael Symon’s new cookbook, Live To Cook. I, never being one to say no to anything food related. Ever. (i.e. “Joanne, try these pig intestines.” Me: “Okay!”) Immediately jumped on board. (Am I a masochist? Possibly. How many blog events am I participating in now…? Let’s not count. No. Really. Let’s not.)
Anyway the premise is that every two weeks, we all cook the same two recipes from the book. One of the first of which was this beet salad.
Now I’m sure I could have substituted something for the beets and Ashlee would have been fine with it. Sweet potatoes, maybe. Or our old orange favorite, butternut squash.
And I would have. Until I read Symon’s blurb about the recipe. In which he promises. Absolutely swears on some dead relative’s grave. That even if you are a beet-hater. This is the recipe that will change your mind.
And so it was with great trepidation that I forged ahead.
I was a pioneer. Making my way into the great beyond. Going where no man has ever gone before. Exploring the unexplored.
It was rough. There were times when I wished I could turn back. Return to my comfort zone. First, when my fingers turned an indelible shade of purple. And then again about forty-five minutes into putting the beets in the oven. Which was really the point of no return. Since I was already over halfway there. And hungry.
Thankfully, though, Symon was right. This is the recipe that will convert beet-haters everywhere. And so I did not end up having to go to anatomy lab with an empty stomach. And I have now added another vegetable to my repertoire. A success on all accounts? I think so.
Slow-Roasted Beets with Buttermilk Blue Cheese, Arugula, and Toasted Pecans
Serves 6 as a side dish, 4 as a lunch or light dinner
1/2 cup roasted pecans (Symon calls for walnuts but I already had pecans on hand)
3 medium gold beets
3 medium red beets
1 head of garlic, halved through its equator
4 sprigs thyme
1 shallot, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
4 oz Roth Kase buttermilk blue cheese
arugula lettuce mix (Symon originally called for watercress, which was nowhere to be found in either Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. So I went with arugula since it is also a peppery green.)
1. Preheat the oven to 325. In a shallow baking dish large enough to hold all the beets, place the golden and red beets, head of garlic and thyme. Add enough water to reach 1/4 inch up the sides of the pan. Season the beets with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with foil and roast until the beats are knife-tender – about 1 hour. Remove the foil and allow the beets to cool (or just go for it and burn your fingers. If you are me.) Trim the beets and peel them. Cut into wedges.
2. In a large bowl, combine the shallot, minced garlic, salt, orange zest, orange juice, honey, and vinegar. Whisk to incorporate. Check for seasoning. Whisk in the olive oil. Add the beets. Toss gently to coat. Taste again for seasoning.
3. Divide the beets among four plates. Top each portion with pecans, blue cheese, and arugula.
Check A Year in the Kitchen on January 31st to see how everyone else’s dishes came out!