First impression of beets — that is SOOO not cranberry sauce.
Pickled beets on a buffet line scarred me for years and I could not bare the thought of them. How dare they look just like my favorite food, and yet taste of tangy horribleness?
But, then a few years ago I began to research nutrition. It became important for our family to eat more vegetables, then more fresh vegetables, then organic, then last but not least local. I was so over the whole only eating foods that have been shipped to our mega mart from across the world. We still eat our share of those, but I wanted to eat more and more local foods. We craved local and fresh.
This landed us at the Saturday farmer’s market every week. It was wonderful. I loved seeing new foods, talking to the people who grew them, and those cinnamon rolls from the sweet Amish family– no complaints there. I was awed by the atmosphere, and got some great fruits, cheese, grass fed meats, and raw goat “pet milk” (stupid raw milk laws). But, when it came to the vegetables, I was stumped. Every week we found cabbage, squash, peppers, tomatoes, egg plants, beets, potatoes, and greens. I knew what to do with potatoes and could snack on peppers and tomatoes, but that is where my knowledge stopped. What in the world do you do with the rest of the things? I hated zucchini and yellow squash, was traumatized against beets, and had virtually no experience with the other ingredients.
But, Mark and I talked about it and decided it was important to us to eat more local foods– and by more I meant the cinnamon rolls and the fruit just wasn’t going to cut it. I began to buy these scary vegetables, and made my share of scary dishes with them. I had no idea what to do with them. But, we were determined and choked our way through my experiments.
It was not exactly a tasty time, but I am glad we did it. I know so much more about those vegetables I can actually get within 100 miles of where I live. As cool as it is to have access to foods from across the world, I think it also does us a disservice. We are not forced to figure out how to use what is around us. That is how cuisines were born. Using the food that is around, and all of them. Knowledge passed down from generations. Now, with a few minute search on the Internets and a comparatively short drive I can make a dish (though often Americanized) from anywhere with just about any ingredients.
I do enjoy that, but it is bittersweet. I could live my whole life without knowing what to do with the ingredients that grow in abundance around here. Honestly, there is no need to learn to like the entire part of the chicken (looking at you liver) or how to cook beets. But, I think that would be sad.
I want to learn and teach my kids about cooking. Both with the abundance of foods we can get from around the world– but more importantly the foods we can buy from here. Now, when I go to the farmer’s market I get excited by many of the foods that used to scare me. But, even better my kids see vegetables as food — not scary pieces of health. I still have to encourage them to try new things, and they have foods they really don’t like. I am fine with that, but glad that most of the time when they try them they actually like them.
I am telling this story here because beets are the best example of this. Neither Mark or I had really had them before trying to eat more locally. Now, I for one love them. It is small, but I feel like it is a victory. As for this recipe, it is simply a way I love them. The balsamic adds sweetness while the basil compliments the earthiness of beets. A bit of pecans for crunch and you have a delicious beet dish.
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- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 oz (14 large leaves) basil, cut into chiffonade
- 1¼ teaspoon coarse Celtic sea salt (can use 1 teaspoon real salt instead)
- 1½ lb beets (12 medium) peeled and sliced very thinly
- 2 tablespoons chopped pecans (optional, can replace with other nuts or seeds)
- 1-2 tablespoons tasty olive oil
- Put the balsmac vinegar and the garlic in a small pot. Bring to a boil, than reduce to medium low to simmer. Simmer until reduced to ⅓ cup/it is a between the thickness of maple syrup and honey. It takes about 10-12 minutes to simmer until reduced but once it is reduced burns quickly so keep your eye on it and stir frequently. But, watch it without standing directly over the pot... vinegar steam is not pleasant to the nose or eyes. Once reduced pour from pan and set aside.
- Meanwhile, put the sliced beets in a steamer basket over simmering/boiling water. Cover and let steam for 10-12 minutes, or until soft.
- When the beets are put onto a small tray in a rather even, spread out, layer. Add the salt and toss some. Sprinkle with the rest of the ingredients. I found it best to add half of them, toss a bit, and then sprinkle with the rest.
- Just before serving drizzle with the balsamic reduction.