Living without gluten, casein, soy, eggs and peanuts. Living with ASD and ADHD. Life is good!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Beets (The Whole Shebang)

I was walking through Whole Foods the other week with a friend. We were there to get lunch as Whole Foods is the only place I feel comfortable getting prepared food anymore. They list every ingredient they use in their foods on little cards next to the food item, from sausages at the meat counter to vegetable fried rice in the cafe section. I love that. I also love that they don't cook their foods with butter - they use canola oil! And I love the little cafe area where you can sit and enjoy dinner or lunch and still feel like you are dining out somewhat. True, it's a little like a cafeteria but it's a cafeteria where I can eat safely without worrying that I'll run into a mystery ingredient that will make me sick later. I can bring my girls there and they can pick the food they want without worrying it will make their tummies hurt or give them brain fog. There's no worry that the chef will be pissed off that I've asked for accommodations, and there's no chance of miscommunication with the waitstaff. It's silly how this makes me feel giddy, but I'm just happy that we can go out to eat somewhere...not that we do it often, but it's nice to know we have the option.

Anyway as I was reading ingredient cards on the hot food items I ran across some roasted beets. They looked so pretty that I almost got some but at 7.99/lb I said the heck with that, I'll get my own beets and roast them at home! And I'm glad I did, not only because it was cheaper but also because I got to use the whole beet, which brought back memories of my grandfather teaching me how to make beet greens. He showed me the "proper" way, which was his way (and most likely the way his mother used to make them) - beet greens sauteed with salt pork and a little pepper. He showed me how to make several things the "right way", which for him almost always included bacon fat or salt pork. I don't usually use those ingredients nowadays but I'm glad he showed me how.

As a kid I hated beets. We usually got beets from a can and to me they tasted like dirt. I finally tasted fresh beets in my twenties and they were amazing - fresh and vibrant with a buttery texture and a mildly sweet taste. The beet greens are good too. They can be prepared like spinach or swiss chard and served as a side dish or thrown into other dishes that call for spinach or other leafy greens.

Choose your beets
Choose fresh beets that are of similar size (I like them on the smallish side) and have vibrant, fresh looking green tops. The beets should not be soft, wet or slimy. They usually come in bunches of four or five, depending on their size.

Prepare the beets
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cut off the beet tops, leaving the stems an inch long. If the thin root is long, you can cut it off but leave at least an inch of it. If you cut these too close or cut them off completely, the beet will bleed out and become pale after cooking. Do not skin the beets. Wash them, then place them in a shallow pan.

Pour water up to a half inch up the side of the pan. Cover the pan with tin foil, then roast the beets for 45 minutes to one hour or until the beets are tender and easily pierced with a fork. Remove the tin foil and allow beets to cool until you can handle them.

Dress the beets
When beets are cool enough to handle, but still warm, take a paring knife and slice off the one inch stems. Then with your hands slip off the beet skins - they should slide off easily. Beet juice will stain your hands, so wear gloves if you don't want them to be stained and wear an apron to protect your clothing. Quarter the beets and toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper and dill to taste. Serve warm.

Save the beet juice! It can be used as a food coloring! Freeze for later use in frostings, etc. if desired.

Cook the beet greens
Beet greens are good cooked with two slices of chopped bacon and pepper but you can also substitute 1/2 small onion, halved and thinly sliced and 1 clove minced garlic.

Coarsely chop the beet greens. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the uncooked chopped bacon or onion and garlic and cook for a minute before adding the chopped beet greens. Stir until the greens are wilted (and if using bacon, until the bacon is cooked through) - this should only take a couple of minutes. Do not overcook. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

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