Friday, January 8, 2010

Beet it: 'Relish' the redness

By Helen Klein

With their regal deep wine color and their complex, sensual flavor, beets make a striking — and addictive — addition to your table.

The best beet dishes allow the sweet earthiness of the beets to prevail, their softness contrasted with crunch, and their honeyed, dusky taste having its most appropriate counterpoint in a tart yet rich dressing.

Many of you, undoubtedly, are responding to my enthusiasm with ughs. I was a late convert as a lover of beets, so I well understand the reluctance of someone who has studiously avoided beets to embrace them culinarily.

Indeed, as a child, I dreaded summer Fridays, when a ladleful of hot, drippy canned beets — with all their technicolor brashness — would inevitably be pitched on my lunch plate, to stain the pristine white mashed potatoes that I actually looked forward to, among the limited offerings of camp food. It wasn’t till I was backpacking through Europe during college that I met beets on an equal footing, and they conquered me.

It was in Avignon, in southern France. My friend and I, both on a tight budget, had ordered a plate of crudités as part of our dinner, that turned out to be a platter of beautifully arranged vegetable salads. One was made with shredded, cooked beets. Unwilling to waste food, I took a nibble, then another. I was hooked.

I don’t remember what else was on the platter, but I’ve never forgotten those beets. Rather, I have been searching for a way to reproduce them ever since.

I’m not going to say this beet recipe quite does it. For one thing, the beets I sampled in Provençe didn’t have nuts.Nonetheless, I think I have captured the sprightliness and freshness of that long-ago salad, and I can vouch for this beet relish’s appeal. A huge portion made just before Thanksgiving vanished quickly, and it didn’t even make its way to the table.

Beet Relish


10 small to medium beets
½ small onion, preferably a sweet one such as Vidalia
1 Granny Smith apple
½ cup chopped walnuts3 cloves garlic
1 tangerine, peeled and seeded
2 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbl. balsamic white wine vinegar
1 Tbl. Jamaican ginger ale
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Wrap beets individually in aluminum foil and roast on a pan in 450° F. oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, till tender. When cool, peel beets, and shred or julienne (I used the julienne disc of my food processor, but a box grater would work, as well).

Chop onion and combine in mixing bowl with shredded beets. Core apple and cut into small strips. Add to beet mixture.Chop garlic (this can be done in a food processor, if you are using one). In blender or food processor, purée tangerine. Add garlic, olive oil, wine vinegar, ginger ale and salt and pepper to taste, and whirl till combined.

Add dressing to beet mixture and combine thoroughly.

Adjust flavorings and serve.

Serves 6.


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