February 28, 2010

The Beet Goes On.

I came into this month prepared to be woozy from the bloody color of beets, to welcome the rush of purpley-red cloaked beneath its earthy skin. But as I sat down to consider the tuber, it was always the lines that drew me in.
A pen study. The slow spiraling roots, searching soil tunnels traced through their small patch of earth. These particular beets ended up as an oldy-but-a-goody: Harvard Beets from "The Joy of Cooking," with a few modifications from Aunt Sue.
But the lack of color drove me back to the produce bins for more beets. This time around, I was determined to have color: Here's my favorite from a veggie photo shoot.

And our "Pink Dinner."
(Photo by Jake.) Lots of enthusiasm about this scrumptious tart from Orangette, (I used my mom's unsweetened pie crust) suggested to me by my dear friend and fellow vegetable enthusiast, Adriane. While Jake and I very much enjoyed it, the girls lost interest when they discovered that the almost Magenta Pink that seeps through the egg-and-feta batter is from beets and not... whatever it was they were expecting...? My efforts to raise fellow beet lovers are not squelched. Just you wait.
With my belly full of beets and the babes sweetly sleeping I got out the watercolors. And once again found myself lost (sometimes literally) in the lines. This time of the leaves and stems of my second lovely bunch of beets.

February 25, 2010

Baroque Salad

OMG, beets are so dramatic.

I love the way the blood oranges in this salad put them in their place. Like "you want to be intense and red and earthy? Fine, but I'm wearing the same dress, and showing my pulp". Booya.

All competition aside, the two compliment each other wonderfully well, and with walnuts and belgian endive for a balancing bitter accent, this salad is everything February isn't. Beautiful, varied, and good for lifting your spirits.

(note: my presentation makes this salad out to be a bit of a diva -- I sliced the beets and loved the shape of them fanned out, so I kind of ran with the fitting dramatic tentacle-like arrangement, but I think I'd like it just as well or better all tossed together and garnished with a handful of endive on top.)

Red and Golden Beets with Blood Orange, Endive, and Walnuts

Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds red and golden beets
1/2 cup shelled walnuts
2 blood oranges
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons orange juice
Zest of 1/2 orange
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 pound Belgian endive

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Trim and wash the beets and roast them, tightly covered with foil, with a splash of water. While the oven is on, put the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 5 minutes. With a sharp paring knife, trim off the top and bottom of each orange. Pare off the rest of the peel, making sure to remove all of the pith. Slice the oranges into 1/4-inch rounds.
Make a vinaigrette by mixing together the vinegar, orange juice (I used tangerine, since I had some on hand), and the zest (I omitted the zest and didn't miss it), finely chopped, and stirring in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them and slice into rounds. Toss them gently with the vinaigrette, and arrange the beets on a plate with the orange slices and Belgian endive leaves. Drizzle over any vinaigrette remaining in the bowl, and garnish with the toasted walnuts.
(from Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables book)

February 15, 2010

My heart beets for you.

Beets were a fitting choice for the month of February, with their rich purpley-pink hues. As I was taking these photographs, I was struck by the intensity of this vegetable. Burly on the outside, but on the inside full of sweetness & that powerful color.