[Little aside that has nothing to do with the rest of this entry: while glancing at WordPress stats before writing this post, I just realized that my previous entry was number 200 on this blog! Where has the time gone?? I'm really amazed that I've written 200 whole blog entries--seems like just yesterday I started writing here (or, at least, just 306 days ago). And what better way to celebrate than with yet another blog entry?]
I’ve always thought of beets as a much maligned foodstuff. I mean, they just don’t have the glamor or charm of more popular roots like carrots or parsnips, or even the whimsical appeal of tubers, like yams or potatoes. It’s like beets are the scrawny kid on the beach who gets sand thrown in his face by the jock, or maybe the chubby kid on the baseball field who’s last to be picked for the team. Poor, plump, unathletic beets!
It’s not just beets that evoke this reaction in me, of course. I for one have always been a sucker for the underdog. Is it because I myself have felt like an underdog much of the time? Is it because the underdog generally tends to be the more quirky, the more multi-faceted, the more interesting and more sensitive individual in any competition? Is it because I’ve seen Rocky too many times? Or is it just because the last syllable in the word “underdog” is “dog”?
With school just around the corner again (really, where HAS the time gone??), all this thought of underdogs reminded me of my own first week as an undergraduate at university. Knowing absolutely nothing about football but eager to take part in orientation activities, I attended the first intercollegiate football game on campus. Okay, actually, I had no interest whatsoever in being part of orientation, but I was pretty sure there might be some guys at the game. And I did want to meet guys.
Anyway, our team (“The Lancers”) were suffering a royal pummeling from the opposition (the celebrated Toronto team, if I remember correctly). Every time our guys messed up and fumbled the ball or narrowly missed a touchdown, they’d be greeted with fervent, ear-shattering boos and a chorus of hisses. Except for one guy, that is.
This one guy, a lone figure in the crowd, kept leaping to his feet after each mistake, punching his fists into the air above his head and bellowing, “Great effort, guys! Good for you! Way to go–great try!!” Talk about supporting the underdog! In fact, I was transfixed by this bizarre fellow. I mean, rooting for the losing team? I couldn’t help but think, “Wow. That is really admirable. I’d love to meet that guy some time. Actually, I’d like to date that guy*.” In the end, our team still lost, but at least they felt appreciated.
These days, I’m a lot more willing to stand apart from the crowd and actively support a less popular concept or foodstuff (it’s pretty much the status quo whenever I eat with my family, anyway, given my oddball dietary restrictions). I tend to harbor the same overprotective feelings for foods I believe are unappreciated. Like beets. Even though the HH thinks they taste like dirt most of the time (never did ask how he’d know that fact), these earthy roots are one of my favorite foods. They’re loaded with folate and potassium; they have some powerful antioxidant properties and are known to help tone and cleanse the liver; they can reduce inflammation in some chronic conditions; and they double as a nifty lipstick in a pinch (thanks for the tip, Cleopatra!). And ever since I learned to roast instead of boil them, I’ve been entirely enamored of these beautiful burgundy bulbs.
If you’ve never been a fan, I’d highly recommend trying this recipe. After being roasted to bring out their natural sugars, the beets are cubed and tossed with quinoa, toasted walnuts, and a lemony, garlicky, tangy dressing. The recipe is a favorite of mine, and one I’ve been preparing regularly since the very first cooking class I taught back in 2003. If you’re avoiding fermented foods (as I am supposed to be doing now), simply omit the balsamic and use a bit more lemon juice instead; use dried mustard instead of dijon; and sweeten slightly with a few more drops of stevia.
Since we received both golden and red beets in our organic produce box last week, I made the salad with both types this time, but the results really are much more visually impressive made entirely with red beets, as they infuse the quinoa with a brilliant crimson hue that’s quite arresting. (I’ll include an updated photo next time I make it the usual way).
“Mum, in case you’ve forgotten, I’m the underdog in this house. I mean, I’m always under Elsie when we fight. And don’t you always tell me I’m underfoot, too? So I guess this means you think I’m ‘more quirky, more multi-faceted, more interesting and more sensitive,’ ? And aren’t you supposed to feed the underdog extra treats, too? “
Quinoa, Roasted Beet and Walnut Salad
Equally delicious cold in summer or warm in winter, this salad is full of cleansing and detoxifying ingredients: beets tone the liver, while cilantro helps to remove toxins from the system.
3-4 medium beets, washed and trimmed (do not peel)
1 c. (240 ml.) dry quinoa
2 cups (480 ml.) water
1/2 c. (120 ml.) walnuts, lightly roasted and cooled
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
grated zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon (about 1/4 cup)
2 T. (30 ml.) balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. (60 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. (10 ml.) dijon mustard
5 drops Stevia or sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml.) fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 F. Wrap beets in foil and bake until extremely tender, about 45 minutes-1 hour. Let cool, then peel off the skins and dice into 3/4 inch (2-cm.) cubes. Set aside.
Bring water to boil in a small heavy saucepan. Rinse quinoa well and add to water. Return to boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Allow to simmer, untouched, for 25 minutes, then check to see if water has been absorbed. If not, continue simmering until all water is absorbed, then uncover and allow to cool. (If you are in a hurry, you can turn the hot quinoa into a glass bowl at this point and place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes).
In a nonstick frypan, heat oil and add garlic and lemon zest. Cook and stir for 2 minutes, then add lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, oil, mustard and stevia. Remove from heat.
Add beets to cooled quinoa. Break walnuts into pieces and add to the bowl. Pour dressing (the liquid in the frypan) over and toss well until quinoa is tinted pink. Add cilantro and combine well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This salad is even better the second day, after flavours meld. Makes 4 servings.
* We did meet eventually, and he was just as sweet, sensitive and quirky as he appeared to be at the game. Oh, and about a month later, he asked me to go out with him, and then he became my very first boyfriend. See? Sometimes, the underdog does get a break.
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