Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Food for Thought—Beets, Beautiful Beets

I remember eating beets as a child, but then there seemed to be a long period—several decades long—during which beets fell out of fashion. Hm. Maybe because it was so difficult for our mothers and grandmothers to get the stains out of their white linen tablecloths! But now that beets are known to be chockablock with antioxidants and other good-for-you things, they’re making a comeback.

Here’s an old recipe from my grandmother’s old cook book I told you about last Friday.

Harvard Beets

6 medium-sized beets
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 water
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook and slice the beets.

Mix sugar and cornstarch, add water and vinegar, and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add butter and salt. Add beets and bring to the boiling point. Serves 6.

My husband is not a fan of Harvard beets, but I actually like the sweet tanginess of the sauce, maybe because it’s a taste of my childhood. In fact, it’s a little like beet relish. Here’s my grandmother’s beet relish recipe that was handwritten inside the back cover of her cook book.

Beet Relish

6 cups minced, cooked beet
3 cups minced cabbage
2 cups ground horseradish
2 tablespoons salt
1 quart vinegar
2 cups brown sugar (the amount is hard to read, but I think it says 2)
Mix altogether and bottle when cold.

Scant instructions, but I assume everything is cooked after it’s mixed. I also assume that every good housewife in those days was skilled at bottling. Do you suppose she sealed the bottles in a hot water bath? I suspect she did.

Looking for a more modern way to serve beets? Recently I’ve come across several recipes for beet and blue cheese salad. My family doesn’t like blue cheese but they do like feta, so I tried substituting that. Delicious, and so easy to make.

Beet and Feta Salad

1 small head of leafy green lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups diced cooked beets
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds (or chopped pecans or walnuts)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Layer the lettuce, cheese and nuts on four salad plates. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Serves 4. Like I said, delicious!


Until next time,


Gillian Layne said...

My parents loved and make pickled beets. I love them cooked and buttered with a bit of salt and pepper.

My kids love them not at all. :) But they eat the required bit on their plates--vitamins, you know! ;)

Lee McKenzie said...

Hi, Gillian. I think it's a good idea to encourage children to try all foods...including vegetables ;)

I remember eating beet greens as a kid, usually served with melted butter and a dash of lemon juice. Those dark leafy tops are supposed to be loaded with nutrients, but I prefer spinach or Swiss chard.

Anonymous said...

I love beets. My children aren't so fond of them, though my daughter recently tried some in her new attempt to try foods she decided as a child she didn't like. She decided they didn't have a whole lot of flavour. Of course, I had simply steamed them.

I'm going to try your Harvard beet recipe and the beet and feta salad recipe looks awesome, Lee.


Lee McKenzie said...

Oven-roasted beets tend to be a little more flavorful, Sheryll. Toss them with fresch minced garlic, a little rosemary and some olive oil and roast them, covered, for about an hour at 400 degrees.

Have you tried yellow beets? I'm not sure if they've always been around or if they're some feat of genetic engineering. Anyway, I find them very bland, and I assume they're lower in antioxidants. Less likely to stain the tablecloth though ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I love beets, and probably for the same reason: indoctrination plus familiarity. Thanks for bringing back memories of these tasty treats. The beets are good for you theme also brings back terrifying memories. spinach. Is also good for you. And to prove it, and to prove my own 'goodness' the eight year old me ate my portion, then volunteered to eat those of my brother and sisters. The results were horrendous, and almost immediate. I learned three lessons: NEVER overeat. Goodness is painful. Green is not a nice colour on wallpaper.
I will try the fabulous recipes you have posted, Lee. I love the history, and your heart healthy versions too.

Lee McKenzie said...

LOL, Marion! "It's not easy being green." And you've just proven it!

I rarely cook spinach because I think it's so much more appealing when it's raw and in a salad. But when I was a child, spinach was always cooked (and mushy and bitter) and salads were made from anemic-looking iceberg lettuce. Tastes sure have changed, haven't they?