[With baked beets and avocado over mesclun greens]
For those of you who’ve decided, as I have, to really appreciate the home front this Labor Day weekend (read: can’t afford to go away), hope you’re enjoying some wonderful weather! If you’re in the Toronto area, drop by to see me and say “hi” at Ambrosia Natural Foods, any time between noon and 4:00 PM. I’ll be offering books and samples of baked goods from Sweet Freedom. And don’t forget that you’ve got only two more days to enter the Simply Bar giveaway! Just click here for details.
Speaking of weather, guess what? It’s summer again! Yep, after a sodden, gloomy June, July and August (okay, maybe there was one day of sunshine), this past week has awarded us with brilliantly sapphire skies and lovely, mellow heat–and Mother Nature’s surprise gift is expected to keep on giving through the weekend.
Am I fixated on the weather? Well, I’m Canadian, aren’t I?
Apart from our legendary politeness and steady stream of Canadian expat comedians now in the US, Canadians are also known worldwide for their perverse preoccupation with the weather. No matter the season, no matter the temperature, no matter the individuals, talk of the climate seems to infiltrate any and all conversations and contexts. To wit:
Scene One. April. Bob and Doug meet on the street.
Bob: Hey, how about those Blue Jays, eh?
Doug: Blue Jays? Are you kidding? It was coming down cats and dogs last night. The game was rained out. Grrr-crappy weather!
Scene Two. December. Sterlin and Ricki meet on the street.
Sterlin: Hi, Ric! Merry Christmas! Hope you and the HH got some great gifts!
Ricki: Gifts? Ha! As if Santa could make it to our house through all that sleet and snow! Crappy weather. *sigh.*
Scene Three. March. Kate and Alex sit on the couch after a romantic interlude.
Alex: Kate, I love you. You are “the one.” You complete me. Will you marry me?
Kate: Marry? Are you kidding? As if anyone could count on a decent Saturday to hold a wedding in June! Crappy weather.
Scene Four. July. Don and Roger meet on the street after lunch.
Don: How was the planning meeting this morning?
Roger: Er, I don’t really know. I noticed it was sunny outside and hightailed it to the park–I mean, it was sunny outside! Can’t afford to waste a single sunny moment in this town. Crappy weather.
You get the idea. And really, Roger has a point. With the last few days in Toronto being bright and balmy, I’ve been spending as much time as possible outdoors–which means very little cooking going on here at the DDD household. But don’t despair–there are always salads and other raw foods!
This dish is one I first noticed on Michelle’s blog some time ago. I think it perfectly straddles the limbo between summer and fall (sort of like wearing darker tights with those light summer skirts to tide you over until you pull out your winter wardrobe). I love beets and had never eaten raw beet greens, so I couldn’t wait to give this a try.
I haven’t always been a lover of the crimson root, however. And the HH is painfully blunt in his assessment that “beets taste like dirt.”
[With beet greens and raw, grated beets. Does this look like dirt to you?]
You see, my mother–an excellent baker, but only passable cook–would save a jar of beet borscht for those evenings when she arrived home from shopping or mah jong and didn’t have enough time to whip up a proper dinner. On those occasions, she’d pop open the lid of the borscht jar she kept in the fridge, pour the chunky liquid into a bowl and swirl in a generous dollop of sour cream. For my dad, a bowl of cold borscht with a thick slice of pumpernickel bread constituted a perfectly acceptable dinner (he’s from Poland; pink soup with shreds of beet floating in it doesn’t seem weird to him). To me, however, the resulting fuscia broth appeared far too reminiscent of Pepto Bismol. Combined with the sweet-and-sour odor of the stuff, it was enough to clamp my throat and cause my stomach to lurch. No wonder I didn’t eat beets again until my 40s.
After attending nutrition school and learning about the myriad health benefits of beets, however, I decided I had to give them another try. Besides being a great source of fiber, Vitamin C, iron and potassium, beets also help decrease inflammation in the body, prevent heart disease, and help tone the liver. In other words, they’re a “nutrient dense” food, one that provides a higher degree of nutritional punch than other foods with a similar calorie content.
Even the HH loved this salad; we ate it three times in as many weeks. When I made it for the fourth time a few days ago, the weather contributed its own influence and I decided to try it without baking the beets first, but simply peeling and grating them raw. The result was equally delicious, with the juicy, sweet crunch of the raw root commingling happily with the crisp greens.
We’ve also had this salad with chunks of avocado tossed in at the last minute simply because it was at its peak of ripeness, adding a smooth, subtle richness that balanced well with the sour note of the citrus dressing. On another occasion, the salad worked well using mesclun greens instead of beet greens when the latter weren’t available.
Serve this as the first course at dinner, or use it as a light supper all on its own–then run out and enjoy the last vestiges of summer before it evaporates once again.
“Mum, that was just a joke about Santa not making it to our house, right? I mean, we’ll still get our usual Christmas treats this year, won’t we?”
Beet the Heat and Mint Salad
adapted from Find Your Balance
The combination of sweet beets and crisp, crunchy greens is a winner in this quick and easy salad. Toss in some toasted walnut halves or sprinkle with hemp seeds for a light summer dinner.
2 pounds (about 1 kg) fresh beets with greens (scrub beets and wash greens; discard thick stems)
1/2 cup (120 ml) unpacked fresh mint leaves, rinsed and chopped
juice of 1 small lemon
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp (5 ml) Sucanat or 5 drops stevia liquid
1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 Tbsp (15ml) hemp seeds, if desired
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a pan with parchment paper. Bake the beets for about one hour, until fork-tender (you can wrap them in aluminum foil for baking if you like, but I don’t bother). Once cool, peel the beets and dice in chunks. Set aside. Alternately, peel the raw beets and grate on the large holes of a box grater; set aside.
Meanwhile, wash and dry the beet greens. Chop into bite-sized pieces.
Place the greens, beets, and mint in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, lime juice, Sucanat, olive oil and hemp seeds, if using. Toss well and season with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings. Will keep, covered, in the refrigerator one day.
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© 2009 Ricki Heller