As a fully qualified ungrateful child of the 50s when children were starving in China, I refused to eat the peculiarly purple beets that occasionally found their way to my plate. It was alien. Period. Obviously, I didn’t grow up on a farm. Many of the vegetables that came my way did so with an interim stop in a can. The beet, however, had the redeemingly gory nickname of Blood Turnip. This was inspiring. It was soon discovered that by mashing the beet pulp between your lip and your teeth long enough before swallowing, you could produce a really disturbing smile.
Fortunately, I’ve since learned to enjoy beets in other ways. This past week, the beauty queen of the beet world, the Chioggia, appeared in our market. With its brilliantly showy concentric circles, this beet deserves the attention it draws. There are dozens of way to prepare these gorgeous spheres, but I love them sliced raw as an implement for dips. Shredded atop a salad is another favorite.
Like many root vegetables, the flavor of beets both intensifies and mellows when roasted. Eastern Europe has created an art form of Borscht, cold, hot, simple, garnished, creamed and otherwise feted. In Poland and the Ukraine the beet is made into a creamed condiment used like mustard and mayo on sandwiches and as a dip. The Pennsylvania Dutch pickled hardboiled eggs with beets. At the other end of the world in Australia, barbecue advocates created the Aussieburger which features a thick slice of pickled beet atop a serious burger. Maybe the Australians should consider adding the Polish/Ukrainian spread to their burger as well.
Pickling beets is truly a simple process. It can be done using Chioggia, golden or red beets either roasted or boiled. These crisp, tart and refreshing tidbits require minimal effort and time and can be table ready with a mere half an hour in the brining liquid. This week’s recipe is for Boiled and Pickled Beets and you can find many other beet recipes on the website including: Cream of Beet, Golden Beet Flan, Roasted Beet and Ricotta Gratin and Beet Hummus. I think I sense an Aussieburger in my future.