Friday, August 10, 2007

For Beet's Sake

Did you know that beet juice was considered in Roman times to be an aphrodisiac?

My mother’s generation tasted fresh garden beets and had fond memories of them, thus during my childhood, she readily bought the canned product, which vaguely resembled a shadow of the real thing. She and my father were able, though some suspension of disbelief, to conjure up memories, replacing a good percentage of their gustatory experience with nostalgia. They somehow liked them.

Skip to the next generation, to their children sitting at the same table, who never had the good fortune of tasting a fresh beet from the garden. That was me. My experience was isolated to the slightly tinny, artificial looking formless sludgy purple glop of mushy ick that tasted something akin to dirt. What is the meaning of this mess? The fluid leaks into other foods on the same plate, staining them. The root itself disintegrates into a mealy and vaguely unpleasant texture on the tongue that is accompanied by a release of an acid, metallic tasting brine to the sensitive taste receptors in my jaw. They caused slight waves of nausea and general belly upset when the unpleasant experience of raking one's teeth through them them was avoided by swallowing them in large pieces. From then on, a genuine hatred for even the idea of beets can logically cultivate in a person’s mind. I didn't touch them again for decades.

What happens to children who subsequently never taste beets in any form because their parents were turned off by canned beets? They are transported to another time by the taste of FRESH BEETS. Hey Mikey, THEY LIKE THEM! I urge you to test this on your own children. I have conducted this experiment on my niece and nephew, and my theory proved correct.

Herein is the lowdown on what the French are doing with fresh beets in restaurants these days. You may notice never before imagined uses of the fresh beet. Do you think it is a coincidence that they use the juice in so many preparations? Think of this as a recipe for stirring up some ideas about what to do with the fresh beets you find at the farmer's market.

shredded balsamic seasoned skate with tomatoes and beet seasoned pesto.
brown sugar roasted apricots with beet sorbet.
grilled Atlantic sea bass with pan simmered garden vegetables and slow roasted tomatoes in a beetroot reduction.
beet jus bathed rouget in Tatin.
pan seared slices of foie gras with pain d’épice and beet accompanied by an acidulated ginger chutney.
foie gras again with beet and apple chutney.
beet ravioli with their caramel.
oven crisped crab with beets and asparagus.
wild boar medallions with beet jus and pepper seasoned cream sauce.
raspberry and beet root parfait.
large langoustine brochettes wrapped in middle-eastern angelhair pastry (kadaïf), served with a beet risotto.
surprising desserts, including variations on the beet theme.
duck foie gras with apples and beetroot vinaigrette.
squab with beets and jus from the root.
marbled rabbit terrine with beet purée.
borsch featuring tiny diced beets.
salmon tartare with beet vinaigrette.
soy and ginger marinated beef tenderloin with red beets and mandarin orange sauce.
locally gathered scallops, green asparagus and beet juice served with mixed aromatic herb salad.
cold zucchini soup with local Gaperon cheese topped with a goat cheese and a beet quenelle.
veal scallop with chicory cream sauce and pan tossed beets.
John Dory with beet greens in a pepper mille-feuille.
venison medallion with red beet sauce, pan tossed langoustines with slow cooked beets.
spring rolls with beet jelly.
pressed foie gras terrine with beet chutney.
pan seared scallops with endive hearts and beet soup.
lobster with beet sauce, mixed berries, and vanilla seasoned sweet potato mousseline.
the beet ravioli in a rhubarb and dried fruit and nut chutney with acidulated potato Mikado.
warm oysters in an champagne and beet juice reduction.
trout brandade napped with a beet coulis.
rabbit terrine with a vinaigrette seasoned beet and parsley duo.
grilled cod fillet served with oven baked potatoes and beets.
frog leg tartare with beets.
beet syrup over shaved ice.
green asparagus cake with a beet and fig sauce.
salmon tartare with vegetables in a beet vinaigrette.
monkfish and vegetable mille-feuille with beet caramel and a carrot reduction.
fresh foie gras with chervil root accompanied by a scoop of beetroot sorbet.
veal sweetbreads with a beet coulis.
simply boiled and sliced beets served with steamed carrots, dusted with fleur du sel and fresh ground pepper, and sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil (chez Lucy).

There is a secret passion for beets smouldering deep in the kitchens of France. Do no pass over the fresh beets again this year, my friend. Give them a try. Cast away the chains of the canned beet generation and discover a love you have never known before!

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Blogger Kitt said...

Good heavens. That's quite the beeting.

I grew up not liking beets, but I don't think I ever had good ones. Mom never served them. Roasted or grilled golden beets are a new discovery for me.

9:48 PM, August 10, 2007  
Blogger L Vanel said...

I mean to beet this message in.

9:53 PM, August 10, 2007  
Blogger Connie said...

oh i know! i just discovered fresh beets myself last year. they are sooo good, i don't know why anyone would ever buy them canned

9:02 PM, August 11, 2007  
Blogger Katie Zeller said...

My mother always made pickled beets and they were such a treat for us. I only see them cooked here - with the huge fork to dump them in the bag...
As soon as my haricot vert are done I'm trying the beets!
You've convinced me - I'll look for truly fresh ones, though...dirt and everything!

9:36 PM, August 11, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I pity the fool who doesn't like beets.

I also pity the ones who don't know their effect on your, er, eliminatory functions. My best friend's ex (ex for a good reason) called her into the bathroom to tell her he was bleeding to death. If you know what I mean.

I loved canned beets even when I was little: it was all we got. The only fresh veggies I remember having growing up were lettuce and corn.

My favorite beets: roasted baby beets, lightly sautéed greens in olive oil, tossed with toasted pine nuts, chevre, and the lightest hit of balsamic. FAVORITE. Could eat it every day.

6:28 AM, August 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Growing up I thought beets were about as disgusting as it could get. Those canned, slimy discs were so awful!
Since moving to France I've learned to love them and still can't get over how delicious they are.
Love the sound of wild boar medallions with beet jus and pepper seasoned cream sauce.

4:45 PM, August 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

photo sur mon blog, merci encore...

6:28 PM, August 12, 2007  
Blogger Christine said...

I roast a bunch of beets almost weekly, sprinkle them with a good blue cheese, toasted walnuts and a bit of balsamic vinaigrette. The recipes you've listed have launched me out of my beet rut and now I won't be satisfied until I try some of them.
And by the way, congrats on your Boston Globe spread. Lovely article.

1:40 AM, August 14, 2007  
Blogger Parisbreakfasts said...

Here I was feeling very pleased to have discovered in Fairway in NYC, French Beets, cuites a la vapeur..
No good I guess..
I love beets too, but who wants the red hands?

11:17 PM, August 14, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I joined the group of 'the tortured beet eaters' at a young age, as my mother also served only the cooked or tinned variety. There should be group help out there for such childhood traumas! It was only recently that my boyfriends introduced me to fresh grated beet salad, which I now cannot get enough of, and will make a point of posting very soon :)

11:31 AM, August 16, 2007  

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