Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Hot pink and delicious

Last Sunday was my favorite kind of Sunday. Sunny and bright and warm. I was feeling very European and stopped at three different spots for food shopping throughout the day, ending up with a beautiful bunch of beets and cherry tomatoes and lemon sole and creamy blue cheese and a carton of blackberries -- the makings of a fabulous Sunday dinner.

Before I go any further, I should admit right now that I've had a serious crush on beets for the last few months, ever since a late-winter visit to Chestnut in Brooklyn during restaurant week. I had the most amazing of amazing salads with golden beets, feta, and raisins. It was sweet and still just a tiny bit tart and the beets had a cooked apple sort of texture that was completely delightful. A few months later, Peter and I went to Al Di La for a fantastic dinner date, and I ordered their beet ravioli. Four arrived on my plate, nearly bursting with hot pink beets, swimming in butter and poppy seeds.

I've been dreaming about beets ever since, but I was feeling shy about cooking them at home. They look quite intimidating, with their dirty roots and wild leafy tops. But I was feeling brave on Sunday afternoon, thinking that any true European girl who was grocery shopping in the produce section of Garden of Eden would buy those beets that she'd been dreaming about. And so I did.

Cooking them was embarrassingly easy, and the pay-off is both pretty and delicious.

Beet salad with lemon vinaigrette

You will need: 2 medium sized beets, half a lemon, blue cheese, sugar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Scrub beets with a potato bush until the dirt and gunk is off the skin, but don't bother peeling them. Cut off the stems and store in a ziplock until you want to add them to soup or saute them with garlic. Put the beets into boiling water and let them hang out there until tender when pierced with a fork. Two medium beets will take about an hour to cook. Let them cool, and then peel the skin off with your fingers -- it should slip off pretty easily. Cut into 1/4 inch rounds and arrange on your serving plate.

For the vinaigrette, combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, a teaspoon of lemon zest, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Pour over beets and crumble blue cheese on top. Feta and goat cheese would also work beautifully.

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