Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


There are some foods that cause people to choose sides. You cannot be neutral.

Liver. Collard greens. Turnip greens. Broccoli rabe. Stinky cheese. Head cheese. Chitterlings. Love these foods or loathe them, you will not sit on the metaphorical fence.

The common garden beet - beta vulgaris, AKA beetroot, is one of those foods.

Me, I loves me a beet or two. While (to me, anyway) plain old canned beets are insipid, pickled beets are just fine. Oven-roasted with a little olive oil and sea salt, they can be positively superb. And as a key component of borscht, they cannot - forgive me - be beat.

She Who Must Be Obeyed sits on the opposite side of the Food Fence from me on the matter of beets. She can’t stand ’em... says they taste like dirt. And, admittedly, an earthy pong is frequently a quality of this most earthy of vegetables.

I’m in the process of making a traditional Eastern European Jewish concoction with beets: rossl. There’s nothing too complicated about it: You simply peel and slice up about five pounds of beets and put them in a clean crock, then dump in about two quarts of water that you’ve boiled, then allowed to cool down until barely warm. The water should cover the beets completely. Then you just let ’em sit on your kitchen counter for about a month. Every day or so, you skim off the whitish goop that forms on the top and then stir the beets up, and if the liquid level starts getting low, you top it off with more boiled and cooled water. After a few weeks, you should have a nice, clear deep purplish-red liquid sitting on top of those beets. You can then stick the whole mess in the fridge for use as a base for borscht, or as a braising liquid for beef brisket.

Mine’s been fermenting for about three days. It ought to be ready right after the High Holidays.

When I began this process, I found that I had about half a pound of surplus beets, all nicely julienned into coarse batons. What to do, what to do? Aha! thought I. I’ll make pickled beets!

All I did was whisk together about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar (apple cider vinegar would have been a good alternative) with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and a teaspoon of Colman’s mustard powder, then poured this vinaigrette over the beets and let them marinate for a few hours. Delish... and even better after a day or two.

The only problem? Beets are jam-packed with betalaine pigments, which have a tendency to pass through the human body relatively unchanged... which can lead to some interesting - some might say horrifying - side effects. But that’s just something we beetniks have to deal with.


Henry Blowfly said...

I love canned beets and loathe the fresh stuff.
There is nothing better than a burger stuffed with a fried egg and a slice or two of tinned beet.

I have to admit to a few years of being fed by Army cooks.

El Capitan said...

It must be sweet
to say something neat
about the red beet,
Man, that'd be all reet.

Alas the nasty beet
tastes like moldy feet,
mixed with rancid meat
that's been baking in the street.

Whenever next we meet,
Happily we will greet,
standing teat to teat,
unless you smell of beet...

Holder said...

My son loved them as a baby, but Oh! the diapers changes were very interesting, to say the least!