I think I need a superhero power. You know, something that will enable me to perform extra-human things in the limited time we’re dealt. Like wiggling my nose to clean the apartment. Or teleporting myself to work, and, at the same time, instantly transforming myself from flannel pajamas to office attire, complete with perfect make-up and hair. Or time travel. Like being able to go back to Monday and save some wilting vegetables from a pointless death by rotting. And maybe even tell you about beet salad while I’m at it.
You see, another week gone by, and I was supposed to tell you about this salad on Monday. So much for executing against the plan. Though, in my defense, I was derailed by the elements, and not of the weather variety. I got served with the world’s longest cold, followed by what looked food poisoning or the stomach bug. Either way, it wasn’t fun. And the thing about the latter is that even though it passes in about 48 hours, it really zaps your energy levels. I’d come home from work and within a couple of hours would be completely and totally wiped out. I couldn’t even think about food, never mind write about it.
Even today, I still haven’t gotten my appetite back. In fact, most food just doesn’t seem appetizing to me still. I’ve been eating a lot of citrus and drinking a lot of Gatorade. Yesterday, I had a papaya salad for lunch and then forced myself to eat two oranges for dinner – crazy, I know. And honestly, this food apathy sucks! I can’t wait to be hungry again. I miss my daily cravings of totally random things like lime pickle, or herring, or bahn mi sandwiches. This life of being unexcited by food – it’s not for me, it downright makes me sad. And I hope it goes away soon. I was made for cravings.
I also find that not being hungry in February is just plain weird. We’re smack in the middle of winter. Cold, snowy, desolate winter. A time for soups and stews and eating hearty meals. My local farmer’s market is rich with root vegetables: turnips, onions, carrots and beets. I know it sounds kind of minimal and sad, but I quite like the spartan selection. This kind of simplicity is a great opportunity for these unfairly maligned guys to step up to the plate (poor pun, totally unintended!). I know – root vegetables aren’t winning any beauty contests any time soon – they’re not exactly lookers. They’re more like Cinderellas of the vegetable world: grayish, dull in color, covered in dirt. But, oh, but, with the help of a fairy godmother, or a loving hand, they are easily transformed into something glorious and beautiful – something that will turn heads, or, at the very least, inspire second helpings.
Beets, perhaps, are my favorite of the bunch. Not only do I love their deep red hue, and their sweetness, but I really get a kick out of using the whole vegetable, root and the greens. I sometimes like imagine myself as one of those ingenious, practical cooks that lets nothing go to waste (oh, if only that were true!) – and it makes me beam with pride, even if I am deluding myself a bit. I know my grandmother would be proud. Or maybe she’s expecting that of me. That woman never wastes anything. It’s like she’s got an internal timer of expiration dates of things in her crisper, and manages to cook everything on time. I want that timer, I wonder where she got hers and whether there are more where hers came from. And if it’s a gene that’s inherited, then I certainly hope that mine blossoms soon. Like a superhero power. I’m even willing to forgo the cape.
Roasted Beet Salad with Oranges & Beet Greens
Adapted from Bon Appétit, January 2004
6 medium beets with beet greens attached
2 large oranges
1 small sweet onion, cut through root end into thin wedges
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
flaky sea salt
freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut the greens from beets. Remove and discard stems. Chop the leaves coarsely and set them aside. Wrap each beet in foil. Place beets directly on oven rack and roast for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, until tender when pierced with fork.
Let beets cool. Peel beets and then cut each into 8 wedges. Place beets in medium bowl.
Cook beet greens in large saucepan of boiling water just until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and cool. When greens are at room temperature, squeeze them to remove excess moisture. Add greens to bowl with beets.
Zest the orange, then cut peel and white pith from oranges. Working over another bowl and using a paring knife, cut between membranes to release segments (this is called supreming).
Add orange segments and onion to bowl with beet mixture.
Whisk oil, garlic, orange zest in small bowl to blend; add to beet mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Serve.
Note: the original recipe calls for wine vinegar. I made 2 batches. One following the recipe to a tee, and one skipping the vinegar as I felt it took away from the amazing sweetness of the beets. I prefer my vegetables to speak for themselves. And the vinegar felt too harsh for me. I found that the orange injected enough tartness into the salad as it is. Lastly, I would recommend, as much as you are able, to use organic beets. Root vegetables tend to absorb pesticides and are particularly susceptible to retaining these toxins.