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Beets in the rain

February 28, 2010

Rainy weekends, even during our alleged rainy season, aren’t terribly common. A lovely little El Nino has brought SoCal three so far, which explains the spike in Abuelita sales at the local Super A. It seems an odd sort of complaint, but when it’s nice out, I feel called to actually be out. Which means less kitchen time. And since this is SoCal is pretty much nice most weekends (really, not gloating here…much) it’s really nice to have an excuse to stay in and play in the kitchen.

I do go to the market though, even on rainy weekends. Most of the markets here in LA are rain-or-shine and I figure if our farmers (I always call them ‘our’ or ‘my’ farmers…it’s as easy as saying my partner/my mom/my friend. It’s not a vocation. It’s a relationship.) are going to go through the trouble of setting up shop in a downpour, I can at least show up and support their efforts. The weather at the market on Saturday morning was very wet and sloppy, and since I’m a bit chicken about pulling out the camera in the rain, even when I swath it cumbersome cling wrap, I managed only all of two pictures, of which this was one.

DSC_0679Bull’s Blood Beets, Weiser Family Farms

Under a tarp that was somewhat scarily bellied with a small pond’s worth of water, I quickly aimed and fired, a subconscious seed planted in my brain that popped open when I scooted over to the Underwood Farms booth to nab some early season artichokes (3 for $5 – not bad). They always have a giant wall of gorgeous beets at the market and the wet weather had washed them clean and saturated their rainbow colors in a most appealing way.

Roasting beets for later use used to be a pretty common habit in my kitchen. But this was the first time in about a year that I had. I like keeping them around for salads and snacking. And it’s such a simple undertaking …

DSC_0702Cut off the tops and tips…

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…then peel off the outer skin. Some people leave it on for roasting and then peel, but I prefer this.

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I cut them in half for faster roasting and easier storage. You can also leave them whole – just adjust your cook-time. Set them onto foil or parchment – whatever your preferred roasting wrapper is – and then do one of two things: leave them alone or season with a little salt, olive oil, and herbs ( fresh thyme or tarragon are my favorites). If they are fresh-from-the-dirt beets, I leave them be and let their beety goodness shine on its own. If they’ve been ignored in my fridge for a week, I season.

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It’s a wrap! Set the packet on a baking sheet (the envelope sometimes leaks) and put it in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes or so, depending on the size of your beets. Longer, if you want the beet sugars to caramelize and coat the beets in their own dark amber richness. They become soft and pliant with a rustic and earthy sweetness – sometime too heavy for some people.  These lighter colored beets are much less iron-heavy and veer away from the earthy potency of a darker beet.

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