Matthew's Foray into Blogging

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Scared of Beets No More

Notice: this entire post is about cooking beets, so it may not be a compelling read.

Prior to yesterday, I had never cooked beets, the firm, round root vegetable that is most commonly a garnet red, with the edible and highly nutritious leafy green tops. However, last week, at Whole Foods, I happened across organic beets for $2 a bunch. I decided to purchase a bunch. After bringing them home, I delayed cooking them for about a week. I was somewhat intimidated by them, truth be told. Everyone knows that beet juice stains; I had read that they will discolor your hands for hours. I could imagine my hands, the cutting board, my clothes the cabinets, the floor, the walls, and everything else in the kitchen being beet red. Finally, yesterday, I donned an apron and a pair of latex gloves, washed the beets, and set about cooking them.

Among the suitable methods for cooking beets are steaming and baking or roasting. I would have preferred to have cooked them in the oven, because roasting brings out the sweetness in root vegetables. However, there is a moratorium on the use of our oven during the summer – it heats up the house too much. That left steaming. However, beets contain more sugar than any other vegetable, I believe. Therefore, it is also possible to candy beets. Marcus Samuelsson, in his book, Aquavit, provides a recipe for candied beets, using orange juice, sugar, and honey. Since Marcus Samuelsson can pass costs along to the customers in his restaurant, cooking beets in orange juice and honey is fine. I settled for a syrup made from sugar and water.

The two steamed beets did not require any cutting. Scrubbing them did result in the leeching of some purple pigmentation, but neither my gloved hands nor the sink became stained! The single beet that I candied did require dicing. To my pleasant surprise, the white cutting board, the knife, and my hands did not become soiled with an indelible purple ink. My clothes and the cabinets were likewise spared. Everything washed up spotlessly, without the use of bleach!

The steamed beets were not intensely sweet. They had the slight sharpness characteristic of beets, but they tasted about like steamed vegetables. The candied beets, after ninety minute of simmering in syrup, were quite sweet, in addition to tasting like, um, beets. My introduction to cooking beets did not result in the beet red mess I had feared. Next time, I will not be so hesitant to experiment with them.

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