22 March 2009

The Critical Beet Down; Also, an Ingredient Alert: Swallow Tail Farms

What winter vegetables are you tired of? For me it's beets. There are definitely some ingredients that are best left to the basics of preparation. For me, beets are best roasted. Maybe there's room for gussying them up with some fancy glaze, and borscht is good and makes one pee red, and there's the french classic of boiled beets with a mustard cream sauce, but it still all comes back to roasted beets for me.

But, of course, that hasn't kept us from trying other methods:

Recipe: Grated Beets with Shallot from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian.
Verdict: Almost good. The method of grating and then sautéing beets has a lot to recommend it if you are in a hurry. It's certainly fast, but it's also messy and I don't think it overly enhances the beet. If one is short on time, I recommend the pressure cooker instead, in which large beets, quartered, will take only 10 – 12 minutes.

Recipe: Beets prepared like hummus also from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian.
Verdict: Better than it looks—honestly!—but not something I ever need to make again.

Recipe: Curried beets with mushrooms; yet another offering from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian.
Verdict: Epic Fail!

Recipe: Beets with greens and chèvre, adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone.
Verdict: This was really good. We used the last of the beets we had from Freedom Farm with some baby greens grown in a poly tunnel in Dresden and some chèvre from Swallow Tail Farm in Whitefield (more on that further down).

  • 2 lbs. beets, scrubbed, quartered
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • baby greens
  • goat cheese
Cook the beets until tender (this takes only 10 minutes in a pressure cooker). Grind the garlic. with some salt into a paste. Whisk the oil into the garlic and lemon juice. Season the dressing with salt and pepper. Dress the beets with most of the dressing, reserving enough to dress the baby greens. Saladify.

Cornucopasetic Ingredient Alert: Any Cheese Made by Swallowtail Farms.

Before going mostly dairy free, I tried my share of goat milk cheeses. Here's an anecdote by way of example. As part of my job I get called out, on occasion, to oil tankers and other large vessels that call on Portland Harbor. As the U.S. Merchant Marine is seemingly moribund, many of these vessels are crewed by Greek officers. On one call, I got into a conversation with a Greek captain who insisted that Greece produced the finest goat cheeses available on the planet and, after pausing to have a brief fist fight with his Chief Engineer, he insisted that he would prove this statement true. What followed was a crazy four course lunch in the ship's galley with each course accompanied by a different array of goat milk cheeses straight from Greece. Sure, those cheeses were good. Really good, in fact. But Swallowtail Farms' cheese blows all of them out of the water (no pun intended).

You can pick up their cheese at the Brunswick Farmer's Market now and in the Bath Farmer's Market this summer.

Bonus Recipes
Wash greene Beetes cleane,
picke out the middle string,
and chop them small with two or three
well relisht ripe Apples. Season it
with Pepper, Salt, and Ginger: then
take a good handfull of Razins of the
Sunne, and put all in a Coffin of fine
Paste, with a piece of sweet Butter,
and so bake it: but before you serue it
in, cut it vp, and wring in the iuyce of
an Orenge, and Sugar.
Excerpted from John Murrell, A New Booke of Cookerie; London Cookerie (1615).

I like the usage of "Coffin of fine Paste." I think I shall bake some blueberries in a coffin of fine paste this summer. Too bad my paste making skills aren't up to snuff.

And how about this one, which actually sounds good:
To make Lumbardy tartes.

Take Beets, chop them small, and put to them grated bread and cheese, and mingle them wel in the chopping, take a few Corrans, and a dish of sweet Butter, & melt it then stir al these in the Butter, together with three yolks of Egs, Synamon, ginger, and sugar, and and make your Tart as large as you will, and fill it with the stuffe, bake it, and serue it in.
Excerpted from The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin (1594, 1597).


Marya said...

pink hummus is not in any way appealing.

Brad said...

Marya, so true. Who wants pepto-bismol on their pita. There is another Indian recipe that involves chopped beets with oil in which garlic and coriander seeds have been infused. But then they mix it up with yogurt, which could only have the effect of making a hot pink look that would be, to my estimation, inedible just on the basis of color alone.