Friday, July 25, 2008

Just Beet It

As much as I'd like to say that I eat everything (which I almost do), I have to admit that we all have food phobias, myself included. Mine began as a child with frequent trips to what was, at one time, my favorite restaurant--The Sizzler. That's right, this foodie was once so excited by the sight of The Sizzler's all you can eat buffet, she almost passed out into her mountain of bottomless chicken fingers. It was once my great shame to admit just how much I loved this long mocked establishment, but I've come to realize that we all cherished some really embarrassing things as children (teddy bears, Sun-In, and The New Kids on the Block are all prime examples).

The one thing that stopped me dead in my tracks during every visit was the salad bar. Next to the crunchy iceberg lettuce and shredded carrots were these juicy, deep purple spheres. I'd never seen anything like them and nobody in my family ate them, so I ignored them. But on one visit a friend added some to her mound of salad, and noticing that the run off from the orbs' juices was staining her salad, I vowed never to go near these unnatural ingredients again. Forever turned off by purple food, I was stunned to find that I'd done such a good job of convincing my college roommate to start cooking, that she actually made a purple potato stew. Being a novice cook, she was unaware that purple Peruvian potatoes can stain the li
quid they're cooked in, resulting in a less than appetizing slate colored mess. So, after a heaping bowl of purple potato stew I vowed to never eat purple or for that matter, gray food, ever again.

Cut to present day when I've learned that beets are the new portobello mushrooms and on the appetizer and salad menu of every popular restaurant. The pickled, mushy, radioactive disasters of the 80's appear to have been replaced with taught, smoky, roasted beets, that dare I say...look appetizing. Since I'm always crusading for people to try new things, I finally decided that twenty years was long enough to avoid eating something that plenty of people seem to love. So, the best wa
y would obviously be to buy the freshest possible beets at the Greenmarket and go with the trend: roasted beet salad. Although the roasting took quite a bit of time (an hour and 15 minutes), it required no attention. Just wrap the suckers in foil, toss them in the oven and check on them after about an hour. A few segments of grapefruit, some thinly sliced shallots and a sprinkle of blue cheese later and I had a truly wonderful dish. My phobia was gone, and on top of it I learned something new. Here's how to cook up some purple stuff for yourself:

Roasted Beet Salad with Blue Cheese

5-6 beets, scrubbed, greens trimmed and removed
olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 large shallot or 2 small, thinly sliced
1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into segments
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (I used English stilton)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1. Preheat oven to 400 F degrees. Drizzle each beet with olive oil and cover individually with foil. Bake beets in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes (could be longer if your beets are larger).

2. Whisk together extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper and set aside.

3. Slice beets (remove skins), top with shallots, grapefruit segments and crumbled cheese. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve.


P.S.--It's time to vote for the 2008 Bloggers Choice Awards, and I'm up for Best Food Blog! Last year it went to Ed Levine's excellent site, Serious Eats, so I'm in good company and just happy to be there. So if you have a few minutes, vote for me here, spread the word to your friends, and thanks for the support!

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