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Saturday, October 04, 2008

beets and their greens with a lemony dill vinaigrette

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Today was my last day of the year selling bread at the South Anchorage Farmers’ Market. When I woke up this morning, it was 33 degrees, but I was pleased that it wasn’t actually snowing. (It was doing that last night.) It’s getting a bit too chilly to be standing outside for five hours, so I’ll admit, I’m looking forward to my indoor, wintertime venues. Even though 33 degrees might not seem all that frigid, I don’t move around enough at my bakery stand to generate much body heat. So this morning I rummaged out my down pants and wool felt boots. Usually I don’t deploy these weapons until mid-January, when the mercury doesn’t rise above 10 degrees and I’m sledding with my 4-year old!

Many of my customers were shivering when they came to my stand, and I was appreciative of their patience while I slowly counted their change with fingers stiffened from the cold. But while my fingers were chilled, the rest of me remained warm, thanks to my arsenal of Arctic apparel. When people asked me, “Aren’t you freezing?” I would step out from behind my table to show them my lower half. Blanketed in my trusty down and wool, I was equally prepared to sell you a loaf of sourdough bread, or mush your dog to Nome. 

I swapped a sourdough loaf for a couple of bunches of beautiful beets with their greens, and invented a new recipe for our dinner tonight, using the entire beet!

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beets and their greens with a lemony dill vinaigrette

I made this recipe up tonight, and I was so excited about the glorious colors that I had to post it immediately!!  The bright magenta of the beets contrasted with the beautiful light green of the dressing, and the dark green leaves of the beet greens…  SO beautiful!  And so delicious, too! Not to mention thrifty, since it uses the entire beet—even the stems!

The tart dressing cuts the sweetness of the beets, and the dill and sunflower seeds are a classic Eastern European beet accompaniment , but this dish is definitely a new twist! The vinaigrette is loosely based on one for a kasha & beet salad in rebar modern food.

vinaigrette

3 garlic cloves
zest of a lemon
juice of a lemon
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon dried dill (or 2 tablespoons fresh)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
½ cup olive oil

salad

2 bunches beets with their greens and stems
¼ cup sunflower seeds, toasted

1. First, roast the beets. (You can do this a day or two ahead of time if you’re baking something else in the oven and have room for a pot of beets alongside.) Preheat your oven to 400 (or if you’re baking something else, just do it at that temperature). Cut the beets from their stems, wash them, and put the whole, unpeeled beets in a baking dish or Dutch oven. Put about ½-inch of water in the dish. Cover tightly with foil or the lid of the Dutch oven and bake them until tender when stabbed with a paring knife. Usually they take 40 minutes or longer, but young beets might be quicker, depending on their size.
2. While the beets are roasting, make the vinaigrette. Toss the garlic cloves in a blender jar, and buzz them briefly to chop them a bit. Add the lemon zest, juice, vinegar, mustard, dill, salt, honey, and pepper. Puree until smooth, scraping down the blender jar as necessary. While the motor is running, pour in the olive oil and puree until everything is nicely emulsified. The color will be a beautiful light green! Taste the dressing—it will be quite tart, to cut the sweetness of the beets, but add more salt, honey, and olive oil as necessary to get a nice balance.
3. When the beets are tender, remove them from the oven. If you have a variety of sizes, you’ll have to pull the smaller ones out first and let the larger ones cook a little longer. Let the beets cool just a bit, or if you’re in a hurry, run them under cold water. Don’t let them dry out, though, because the skins will be a lot harder to peel off. When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip their skins off. Cut the beets into ½-inch pieces and toss with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Set them aside to marinate.
4. While the beets are roasting, toast the sunflower seeds on a baking sheet in the oven for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant.
5. Pull the green leaves from their stems—but reserve the stems, too! Wash the leaves in a pan of water, and set them aside. Wash the stems, too, and then cut them into ½-inch slices. Set aside in a bowl.
6. Put about an inch of water in the bottom of a steamer. Steam the beet greens for 5-7 minutes, until nicely tender. Set aside to cool in their bowl. Steam the beets stems for 10 minutes or so, until they are nice and tender, as well. Set aside. Chop the beet greens coarsely.
7. To assemble the salad, toss the beet greens with some of the vinaigrette, and then toss the stems with some vinaigrette (keep them in separate bowls). Make a little tower: first the greens, then the stems, and finally the cubes of beets. Drizzle with a little of the green vinaigrette (what a color combination!) and then sprinkle with sunflower seeds.  Enjoy! 

 


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