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Sunday, March 29, 2009

An Ode to Beets

You have been awfully patient with me and my streak of Carb-o-holics Anonymous meetings. Sometimes I just get hooked on the magical comfort of carbs, which, in the interest of science, may be simply explained away by the increase in production of serotonin, but I like to think of it as *magic*. Did you know that protein blocks that release of serotonin, so having a vegetarian pasta will actually feel better than if it was loaded with chicken or meat?! Keep your carbs vegetarian when you really want to relax and take in the comfort factor of your food, then switch it up to have proteins and vegetables together for a low-carb meal when you want to feel energized.

The way I'm talkin, you might think this is going to be another post about the beloved carb, but it's not! It's about beets! I know, I know, besides the occassional trial of this or that, I really have been a nay-sayer about beets and I'm not sure why. I think, dear reader,that I am coming around. And it's all because of Spruce. Spruce introduced me to a new way of thinking about beets. It wasn't a creative preparation or anything unique or fancy, but it was the combination of flavors that really got under my skin. In fact, I had gone on to order lobster, but found that little salad to be the absolute highlight of my meal! "I'm sold," I announced loudly to my dinner companion, who laughed at me as though his love of beets had been around for decades and I was really, really late to get onboard. I have to admit that there is something oddly seductive about its deep red color with a sweet savory flavor...

Photo courtesy of the talented Mr. Jason Henry:
On a large flat plate, red beets had been shaved paper-thin (only a professional mandolin could have accomplished this without the beet tearing or becoming mush). The beets were then topped with some fancy greens (perhaps arugula and frisee) that had been tossed in olive oil, Banyuls vinegar, and salt and freshly cracked pepper. The greens were dotted with little slices of baby tangerines, as sweet and juicy as can be. Then, then, there was a lovely scoop of warm goat cheese sliding down the mountain of greens. All of this was then topped with a sprinkling of delicately toasted hazelnuts, halved and skins peeled.

You're sold too?! Yeah, no kidding. Since my Neighbor the Chef works at Spruce, I got to meet the Salad Station Guru. He's only 19, but, oh my, that boy can make a salad!!!

That salad at Spruce inspired me to revisit my trials at cooking with beets. On evening after rushing home from work, I quickly blanched some fresh asparagus and arranged them on a plate with some thinly sliced beets (that I purchased already steamed and peeled!) and topped it with a handful of toasted walnuts and some knobs of goat cheese. Then I drizzled a Beet Vinaigrette over the whole thing and *Zing*, there it was!

* 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
* 5 Tbsp. olive oil
* 1 tsp. dijon mustard
* 1 tsp. lemon juice
* 2 tsp. beet juice
* a little squeeze of honey (optional)
* salt & pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together until emulsified.

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