Monday, September 5, 2011

Oops, I Think I Borscht'd

Let's talk a second about one of the banes of my existence: beets.

According to Sara, owner of my CSA (Community Supported Ag) group, "You either love 'em or you hate 'em."

As a kid, we weren't subjected to beets much, so I was more in the "Ain't Never Tried 'Em" group.  I got them a few times last year in the share, and they went to waste the first time.  As a general rule, I did what I could with my veggies, but I tended to focus first on the ones I was familiar with, second on the ones that smelled and looked good, despite being new to me, and third on the new ones that looked unappealing.  Often, by the time I was ready to focus on that third group, a whole new set of veggies had arrived.  Beets, as you can see, look like dirty turds and smell slightly better.

Toward the end of the year, I had rustled up a way to introduce myself to beets without making them the star of the show.  I found a recipe for a bundt cake that used beets and orange peels to make a "beautifully pink-fleshed cake."  I had forgotten, however, that I am not a very good baker.

The reason for this is my willingness to substitute whatever is on hand for whatever I am lacking.  I don't recall exactly what I subbed in, but said pinch hitter was not good.  Cake #1 went largely to the compost pile out back.

You are right, Constant Reader.  One cannot have Cake #1 without Cake #2.  This one was prepared for a tailgate and placed next to various more traditional goodies, such as brownies.  I do not blame people for their choices.  Even I chose the brownies.

Cake #2 did make it back, mostly in tact.  But I was so reminiscent of the ickiness of Cake #1, that it eventually joined its predecessor in the compost heap.

This year, I have wasted exactly 4 pounds of beets.  And I decided it needs to stop.  I ain't down wit' wasting food - or beets.  (Anymore.)  Besides, I had an absolutely delicious felafel wrap at a local fair, which included beets.  They couldn't be all bad.

As a test run, I tried the "Beet and Orange Salad" at Wegman's (a grocery chain similar to Whole Foods or Harris Teeter).  It was awful.  Possibly rancid.  I tasted rancid bruschetta once. The tomatoes had begun to ferment and it was almost soda like with bubbles.  This beet salad was just like that.  Only, Wegman's is known for their fresh food, and especially their salad bars.  So was it really rancid, or is this how it is supposed to taste?  I couldn't decide if I should complain, so I focused in on my slice of Ultimate White Cake which is pretty much like very fattening heroin. good.  (By the way, I have not actually tried heroin, but I have seen Trainspotting.  Same thing.)  Anyway, another pound of beets showed up in my share after that - they are definitely producing better this year - and I just tossed the soft, wrinkly little guys into the compost pile, untouched.

It was a few weeks later (last Friday, actually) that I tried a Moroccan Salad at California Pizza Kitchen, which included, among many other tasty things, beets.

And it was delicious!  The beets really didn't make the salad bad at all.  I would not go so far as to say I would have missed them if they were forgotten, but... I decided on a whim to toss a few, small, finely chopped pieces into the soup I was making for my lunches this week.  Turns out, beets are kind of like the bullies of the bunch.  (Maybe that's where the get their name?)  Like a banana or cantaloupe in a fruit salad, everything in my blood red soup tastes like a dang beet.  It hardly seems like a soup at all.  It's a borscht.  Sure enough, you really don't use many beets in a borscht.  A small gang is all that is needed to take over the neighborhood.

Oh well.  My soup isn't all that bad.  And I used a beet on a salad for lunch today.  They almost taste good when paired with carrots.  I'd say I neither love them nor hate them.  But slowly, I am learning not to waste them.


kt said...

"Beets, as you can see, look like dirty turds and smell slightly better."

Oh, nicki, you crack me up!

Beets, I love them pickled and mixed in a tossed green salad.............kt

Danielle Mari said...

I am the same kind of baker and have the same sad results. Everything I bake comes out brown and with the approximate density of a black hole. Only not as tasty. In addition to making substitutes with whatever's on hand, I also tend to eyeball the measurements and am too impatient to wait for the oven to preheat. All of this MAY have something to do with my inability in this area. Who knows.
Now about beets. Nasty horrid things. Hate them. HATE. That wasn't rancid. That was beets.
You are brave.

CaraBee said...

Confession: I had no idea what CSA stood for.

Now. Beets. I fall in the don't like them category. Mostly, I think, because every time I have tried them it has been when I was expecting to bite into a candied apple and was surprised by a beet. This is NOT a pleasant substitution. I generally consider myself reasonably exploratory in my food consumption but I confess that part of the reason I have never participated in a CSA is because of all of the veggies that I have ZERO interest in eating. Like beets. And Kale. Blech.

Best of luck in your beet use! Let me know if you do manage to find a truly tasty recipe!

Cynthia said...

Beets are so yummy when pickled. We used to pickle them and can them every year growing up. And then hardboil eggs and turn them purple from the beet juice and make purple egg salad. See now you've made me want some beets!