Beets are pretty much the best ever. Fact.
I had to go to Granville Island on Sunday, because Grace bought me a ticket to Rosé Revival and I asked Nick to put it in his pocket so I wouldn’t forget it and then Grace fed us red wine slurpees and then we had regular wine and then she brought out the whiskey and it was late-late-late when we left her apartment and staggered home, and somewhere between sitting on her couch and flopping into bed, the ticket escaped. So I went to Granville Island to go to Liberty to buy a new ticket. Long story short? They said, “we have lots of tickets. See if you can find yours, and if you still can’t, come back tomorrow. You’re awesome.” So I bought a bottle of Pink Elephant, because I’m on a sparkling wine kick at the moment, and wandered the market getting all love-bubbly about produce and cheeses and Oyama Sausage and the dreamy fishmonger who talked me into buying his fresh-fresh-fresh halibut.
But we’re not into shortening long stories around here. No. In the immortal words of my grandmother, “to make a dull story long:” Beets.
Beets are largely misunderstood. I believe it’s because they come in cans and $1.09 tins of beets are kind of gross and when you’re a kid and your parents are poor and don’t notice that there’s a whole section in grocery stores with fresh vegetables, you get shit in cans, or in bags that you keep in the freezer. I kind of wonder if grocery stores didn’t have produce sections in the 1980s. I’ll bet they didn’t. Not everyone was lucky enough to have a grandmother who pickled beets in magic. I have been a beet fan since my first magenta pickle.
It’s important to me that beet biggots be shown the light. There is no vegetable that cannot be made holy: it’s all in the preparation. And for beets, that means roasting.
To roast a beet, treat it like you would a potato you intend to bake. Give it a rinse, scrub off any crud, but don’t peel it. Put it on a piece of tin foil big enough to cover the beet. Salt. Pepper. A drizzle of olive oil. Wrap it up, and then throw it right on the rack of your oven, which should be a balmy 425°F. Depending on the size of your beet, the thing will roast for 60 to 90 minutes before it’s done. My beets were a bit bigger than my fist (I have adorable little paws), and took just under an hour and a half to become tender.
Prepare an ice bath. Once the beets are good and tender (stick a fork in one), pull them out of the oven and unwrap them immediately, dropping them directly into the ice bath. Let them cool there until you can handle them comfortably. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to rub the skins right off.
What do you do now? Well, that depends. If you’ve just spent the day being enticed by fish mongers and all the ways to fritter away the last of that paycheque you just got, you may want to make a salad out of them. You have all that halibut, after all.
I made that picture humongous because I wanted you to see all the beautiful colours. You can’t see them though. They’re there. Maybe there’s too much cheese.
So what do you need to make this happen? Two large beets. Or a bunch of smaller ones. Golden AND regular if you can find both. I also had a candy cane beet that was supposed to really make this lovely, but it was diseased. Don’t eat diseased beets.
A handful of very small tomatoes. I found these little orange heirloom cherry tomatoes and immediately felt that deep spiritual connection that one does when all atwitter at the sight of little tiny vine fruits and the joy of an impending feast.
Bocconcini. The amount you need will vary depending on the size. Mine were about the size of purple summer plums, so I used two.
Basil. Fresh. Chopped.
Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
Pairs excellently with halibut (pan-fried in butter with a capers and garlic, and seasoned sprinkling of salt, pepper, and lime zest), asparagus wrapped in bacon, and minty potatoes (roast new potatoes or chopped white, red, or purple potatoes for 20 to 30 minutes in a bit of olive oil, and toss with a tablespoon or two of fresh mint).
Anyway, for a great meal, start with beets. Also, maybe stick a Post-It to your bathroom mirror with a reminder that you ate beets the night before so that the next morning you don’t freak out a little and think you’re hemorrhaging or dying or something. That’s no way to start your day. Beets: Exciting!