Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Working My Way Through a Giant Bag of Beets, Part One.

I am a sucker for a good deal.
So when I saw a big bag of Canadian beets on sale for 99 cents, I grabbed it. I am used to the little bunches that are $2.99 - which works out to about a buck a beet. I don't know the reason for my good fortune this week, one does not question these things too harshly, I was just glad I was there to find such a treasure.
Beets are entering their long overdue heyday this year. Now recognized as a superfood, beets may well be for 2009 what blueberries were in 2008. Cheaper too.
This means that I will have to start getting creative though, I have a lot more to go through.
For dinner tonight, I made a simple beet salad made with roasted beets. Since this had a Middle Eastern flair, I made a roast chicken and potatoes with complementary seasonings. This made for a great and surprisingly easy weeknight meal. The salad is tart and tangy, with warm earthy undertones from the cumin and roasted beets. And who doesn't love a roast chicken with potatoes? Just switch up the seasonings, and they are ready to go with whatever your dinner theme happens to be.
A meal designed around my roasted beet salad? Why not?
Beet Salad with Cumin, Mark Bittman, The Best Recipes in the World
1 pound of beets, or a little more
Juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced (I used three)
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Feta, crumbled, for topping
1. Preheat the oven to 375f. Wash the beets, then put them, still wet, in a roasting pan and cover with foil. Bake until soft, about 45 minutes (use a thin-bladed knife to pierce through the foil and into the beets to test for doneness) (Mine took closer to an hour). Remove the beets, then allow them to cool before peeling and slicing into rounds 1/2 inch thick. (You can cook the beets a day or two in advance if you like; cut them up at the last minute.)
2. In a blender or bowl, whisk together all the remaining ingredients except the parsley until creamy. Tasted and adjust the seasoning ans necessary. Toss the beets with the dressing and refrigerate or serve, garnished with the parsley.

I served this with a small whole chicken that I rubbed with a paste of two parts sumac to one part ground cumin, some kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and dried thyme and enough olive oil to make a paste. Rub the whole chicken with the paste, stuff the already squeezed lemon halves from the beet salad into the cavity and roast in your favourite manner.
The potatoes are yellow fleshed fingerling - a fun little shape - that I drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, lemon thyme and whole cumin seeds. I roasted them at 425 for about 40 minutes until crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.