The Albino Horror

Almost exactly a month ago, now, I went to the Madison, WI farmer’s market and came home with a mountain of produce.  Buried amid the bounty were two specimens of a vegetable that I’d never seen before: white beets.

They were enormous (at least 8 inches in diameter) and cheap (50 cents a piece).  “Ugly but good!” said the sign, and thinking, oddly, of the Italian cookie, ‘bruti ma buoni’, which means the same thing, I bought them.

They were very large.  And very white.  And “Good Lord!  That’s not a vegetable, that’s Swamp Thing’s heart!” said our upstairs neighbor.  I cooked them anyway. 

I peeled, chunked and roasted the two behemoths, for once not needing to worry about magenta (or orange, or pink, or blood-red) stains.  I forgot about the foil packages for two hours, the way I usually do, and when I came back to get them: Ugh!

They were all BLACK!  And dirty-looking!  And just grotesque!

I had no other vegetable to serve for dinner that night, so I sliced them into matchsticks, tossed them with a pickle-y vinaigrette and ate them, averting my eyes.  They were extremely tasty, but with less than zero visual appeal.  I blended up the second half of the unfortunate cubes, put the puree into a tupperware and shoved it to the back of the freezer. 

Throughout the month of September I thought about that container of greyish puree.  I knew I should do something with it–aside from the fact that it would be wasteful to discard that much food, the beets actually tasted GOOD.  I just couldn’t get over the color.

Finally, I was rescued by an unexpected savior: curry. 

In one of my many forays into a library cookbook I found a recipe for curried beet soup with apples.  I liked the idea of the earthy sweetness of the beets playing off the lighter sweetness of the apples, with the spices to warm up the flavors, and finally–grudgingly–decided to defrost the beets.

I sweated a small, roughly chopped yellow onion until it was limp and translucent, then added a chopped apple (Northern Spy, in case you wonder) and two teaspoons of bright yellow curry powder.  I let the apple get slightly soft while the aroma of the curry powder bloomed in the heat, then added the beet puree.

Magic!  The turmeric in the curry powder transformed the grisly grey color into a lovely umber  I was immediately more sanguine about my meal prospects.  The soup had smelled delicious all along, but it was only that moment when I began to really believe it.

I added 2 cups of my homemade chicken stock, put a lid on the pot and let it bubble for half an hour–long enough for all the ingredients to amalgamate into a harmonious whole.  Meanwhile, I seared some cubes of pressed, ginger and soy-marinated tofu, to serve as “croutons” on top of the soup.

It was delicious–and pretty–saving the beets from a doomed existence at the back of the freezer. 

Published in: on October 10, 2007 at 6:39 am  Comments (1)  

No Excitment

After Sunday’s proto-nuptial feast, nothing has been very exciting.  The meals have all been good–entirely comforting and satisfying–but no dish has made me want to leap up from my seat and run to the computer to tell everyone about it.

There was a chuck roast rubbed with chipotle powder and cooked with tomatillos, zucchini, carrots and tomato sauce: spicy but mellow and perfect for leftover lunches with a crisp salad.  There was a cherry-yogurt panna cotta with vanilla cherry sauce that made an indulgent, creamy breakfast.  There were the fish cakes so full of herbs that they were virtually green, with a lemon-horseradish sauce and a radicchio-endive-arugula salad (too bitter for Teacherman, but just right for me).  Tonight there were ample bowls of tofu laksa, slippery with shiritake noodles and bean sprouts, silky with coconut milk and tofu, with a faint memory of chile and utterly lacking in verve. 

This cannot go on. 

Comforting fare is all very well and good, but it isn’t enough.   Unfortunately, though, Teacherman and I will be away from home for both lunch and dinner tomorrow (more wedding-related meetings)  which considerably reduces my immediate scope for shocking our meals back to life.  There is, however, tomorrow’s breakfast. 

Teacherman does not know it yet, but that forthcoming morning meal will be arresting, invigorating, and above all, exciting.  I have no firm plans, but after a concentrated period of opening cupboards, my brain is spinning with ingredients, equipment and ideas.   So many ideas, in fact, that they may spill over onto Sunday’s breakfast. 

And I think I see a jar of harissa off in the corner. . . .

Published in: on May 4, 2007 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment