Week 19 Newsletter
Hello Dear Readers, You Mavens of Vegetal Curiosities,
We have arrived at week 19. We are nearing the end of our journey together. We have gathered and consumed fruits and vegetables from all stages of the season, delighting in the variety and a few surprises we’ve encountered along the way. Still, we march onward.
This week we’re continuing with our favorite autumnal hits: apples, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and leeks. One of my favorite early-and-late season root vegetables reemerges for its fall and winter homecoming: beets. Beets are one of those vegetables that I frequently hear that shareholders don’t like. They’re also the one I most frequently tell people they’re eating wrong. I married a first generation Ukrainian-American 16 years ago and I hadn’t had much exposure to beets previously. My husband was fond of boiling and buttering them or making borscht, but I find these to be the absolute lamest ways to make use of this superb vegetable. Even he was doing it all wrong. He misunderstood the humble beet.
Tom Robbins wrote an entire book about beets. Sort of. In Jitterbug Perfume, he wrote:
“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.
The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip...
The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.
The beet was Rasputin's favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.”
In order, then, to properly capture the fierceness they embody, one must do the only sensible thing there is to do with beets: roast them. You must scrub and chop them, coat them with a thin layer of olive oil, place them in a foil envelope and bake at 350˚ until done enough (or about an hour). The skins will then peel off easily, if you so desire. In this manner, they can become a light snack, a plain side dish, a delightfully sweet topping on salads, or the absolute fanciest of hors d’oeuvres sliced thin with chevre, atop a crostini with a tiny microgreen garnish (to die for!).
I’m pretty sure you can make a pizza crust, top the dang thing with buffalo mozzarella, beets, and fried eggs and call it amazing – though I’ve never tried it as such. Roasting a chicken? Throw in some beets. How about dicing some up with peppers and potatoes and carrots and frying an egg on top and calling it brunch?! Serve that up with bacon and mimosas and you’ll be the talk of the whole dang town. Beets know what’s up.
As an added benefit, when you eat enough beets, your pee turns pink. I have sons and we convinced them to eat beets by feeding them this fun fact first. We even got them to eat asparagus alongside it, which made for super exciting bathroom adventures!
If all else fails, you can always make chocolate beet cake, which is the savior for Those Who Hate Beets. The things come candy striped on the inside, so it must mean something important (like dessert!). Chocolate beet cake – it must absolutely be noted – is not a solution for sneaking beets into something. Chocolate beet cake is its own delicacy. Beets really do legitimately add something to the cake. They make it richer, more earthy. They add something unseen and not understood to the chocolate. If you were to believe Tom Robbins, they are the secret to everlasting life, so when combined with chocolate, must surely work some kind of magic at the very least.
Chocolate Beet Cake
from John Peterson’s Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables
3-4 medium beets
butter and flour for preparing the pan
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 c. mild-flavored vegetable oil
1¾ c. sugar
1 T. vanilla extract
1½ c. all purpose flour
½ c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 t. baking soda
¼ t. salt
powdered sugar for dusting
1) Scrub the beets with a vegetable brush and trim roots. Trim stems and save greens for some other use. (I’m not sure what other use, but I’m working on it.) Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the beets. Boil for 20-30 minutes, or until the beets are tender and the skins slip off easily. Let the beets cool a little, the slip the skins off under cold water and then purée the beets in a blender or food processor. You should have about 2 cups of beet purée.
2) Preheat your oven to 375°F. Butter and flour a Bundt pan and set it aside. (This is where I went wrong — I followed the original instructions to coat the pan with oil (!) and did not abandon ship even when I noted that the oil was pooling in the bottom of the pan rather than coating the whole interior of the pan. Use butter; it sticks.)
3) Fill a medium saucepan about halfway with water and bring the water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and set a heat-proof bowl over the simmering water. Place the chocolate and ¼ c. of the oil in the bowl and heat, stirring frequently, just until the chocolate melts.
4) Combine the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Slowly beat in the remaining oil, the chocolate mixture, beets, and vanilla.
5) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt. Gently stir the flour mixture into the egg and chocolate mixture until just combined.
6) Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the cake from the pan and allow to cool completely before sprinkling with powdered sugar to serve (or chocolate ganache!).
Don’t forget to order your holiday shares this week! You’ll need beets for Thanksgiving!
Check out what else we have in the shares this week! Subject, as ever, to change day-to-day, stop-to-stop.
Peace and veggies,
Anna Kiss Mauser-Martinez