One simple word. Five letters. And one of my favorite foods in the world. But it wasn't always that way. I hated beets as a kid. I loved the pickled red-beet eggs that were a staple at every family picnic when I was growing up (Amish country, represent!), but the beets themselves made me gag. It wasn't until I went to Egypt nearly 10 years ago that I fell in love with beets. And it's not like beets are the national root vegetable of Egypt. I just happened to have a very lovely dinner in a restaurant in Cairo with some friends and work colleagues and I decided to give beets a try. And I was forever hooked. Red, yellow... doesn't matter. I love beets in almost any size, shape, color, and preparation. And, that's one of the reasons I enjoyed making this dish. The other reason? My new boyfriend, Ashed Chevreaux. More on that later.
Before I get started on this write-up, let me say a little something about two new (to me) food purveyors I went to for ingredients to make this dish. The first is Arrowine, where I got the goat cheese (chevreaux). It's well known that the Maryland suburbs of DC are not exactly known for their great choices in wine, cheese, and other fine foods shops. It's actually pretty grim. The northern Virginia suburbs are more known for their great cheese shops and specialty foods stores, so even though it was a bit of a schlep to drive out of Maryland, through DC and into Virginia to do some exploring, it was well worth it. I had heard about Arrowine through some folks on DonRockwell.com (a DC-area food forum) and was anxious to try it out. I called ahead to make sure they had the Ashed Chevreaux, and they did. When I got there, the staff could not have been more pleasant and lovely to work with. So, if you're in the DC area and want to do a cheese field trip, go to Arrowine (4508 Lee Hwy. in Arlington, VA). The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and friendly.
The second food purveyor I want to give a shout-out to is a tiny little food co-op in Mt. Rainier, MD called Glut. The town I live in has a VERY well known food co-op, but I tend to find their prices exorbitant and the staff a little (okay, a LOT) annoying and self-important. So, I crossed county lines into Prince George's County (eek! kidding, sort of) and made my way to Glut (4005 34th Street; Mt. Rainier, MD) to buy the beets and the beet juice. Incidentally, they were the only store I could find within a five-mile radius that sold bottled, organic beet juice (which this recipe calls for). I don't have a juicer at home, or I might've made the beet juice myself. Wait, no I wouldn't have. Me? Beets? A juicer? My walls are already red, but the prospect of me trying to make juice out of something so potentially disastrously wall- and cupboard-staining is a bad idea. Maybe another time. Or never. But, the Glut food co-op was a nice little find, and because it's only 10 minutes from my house, I think I'd go back there again instead of dealing with the non-showering/bathing pomposity at the co-op six blocks from my house.
Alright, I've blathered on enough. Let's talk about the food.
The first thing I did was wash my lovely beets (get your minds out of the gutter, you sickos):
Next, I wrapped them individually with a few drops of canola oil in each foil packet:
I roasted them on a tray in a 300-degree oven for two hours. Of course, I roasted many more beets than the recipe called for because I wanted to be able to eat beet salad the rest of the week. Yes, it's an addiction. Call A&E. Schedule my Intervention episode now.
While the beets were roasting, I made the Beet Vinaigrette. Here's the mise en place:
Yep -- it's just beet juice and red wine vinegar. I brought the beet juice up to a simmer, then added the vinegar and reduced this mixture until it was nearly gone, and was quite syrupy and incredibly fragrant:
I peeled the roasted beets and sliced the red ones into disks and the yellow ones into batons. The French Laundry Cookbook suggested the yellow beets be cut into disks and the red into batons, but the size of the beets I bought did not allow for that, so I did the old switcheroo.
Next, I opened the Ashed Chevreaux from its paper wrapping and marveled in its ashed, moldy glory. Here's a photo, and although it's a bit blurry, I hope you can get a sense of what this cheese looked like:
I'm a big fan of moldy cheese like this. As soon as I saw this one in particular at Arrowine, I knew I was going to fall in love with it. I cut it into six slices in preparation for plating.
For plating, I first did a few swirls of the Beet Vinaigrette, which I topped with a red beet disk. On top of that went five or six yellow beet batons. On top of that went a second red beet disk, and the final topper was a slice of the goat cheese. I also tossed some baby beet greens in olive oil and sea salt and garnished the dish with it. Here's the final presentation:
This recipe also called for beet powder, which I did not make. I'll try it another time, but I didn't have the time to do it this go-round (it requires a good 7 hours of roasting in a low oven, and it just wasn't feasible for me to do this week since I'm not comfortable doing it overnight while I'm sleeping). I already feel like I scored victory with the tomato powder, and I've also already successfully made carrot powder for next week's dish, so I didn't want to tempt fate.
The beets were sweet and tender, and the texture was perfect. The Beet Vinaigrette was lovely and quite sweet (it was a big hit with "M," one of my 10-year old kitchen helpers from time to time, as she kept dipping pieces of dark chocolate into it before eating them to help clean the plates). The Ashed Chevreaux was creamy and smooth and just pungent enough to sit in your nose for a few seconds while the sweetness of the beets met up with it. I could've done without the beet greens on the side, but they were pretty and added some additional textural contrast that wasn't offensive, so it was okay.
I wish I had had some time to put together a wine pairing for this, but I've always had a hard time finding a wine that can stand up to beets. A pairing for goat cheese is no problem, but to find something that doesn't clash with beets has been tough for me. I welcome your recommendations. You should know that I am one of those genetic freaks known as a supertaster (even though it sounds cool, it sometimes sucks because there are foods that I simply cannot enjoy, as much as I want to), and sometimes have issues with certain foods and how my tastebuds react. For example: cilantro tastes like soap dipped in battery acid; plain coffee tastes like I'm being poisoned; grapefruit is intensely bitter; and, peppers with even the smallest amount of heat make my tongue go all wonky. So, with that in mind, I challenge you to find a wine that can stand up to beets and goat cheese that will not make me spit it out because it tastes bitter.
Up Next: Corsu Vecchiu with Spiced Carrot Salad
Ashed Chevreaux from Arrowine in Arlington, VA
Beets and Biotta bottled Beet juice from Glut food co-op in Mt. Rainier, MD
Music to Cook By: Steve Miller Band -- Greatest Hits; and I challenge any of you to come up with better lyrics than "you're the cutest thing I ever did see; really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree." How did they not win more Grammys for songwriting, I ask you?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007