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Monday, September 24, 2007

Sweet Beet Roast

I spent the weekend camping at Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. I was in the midst of a Canadian Boreal forest, characterized by oak, maple, elm and birch scattered among handsome conifers. It was far enough north for the leaves on the trees to be glowing in full fall technicolor bloom, with hills of yellow, red, green and orange overlooking a crystal clear lake. September 23rd was the fall equinox, and I literally watched as the sun move from summer to fall.

I got to Philadelphia feeling refreshed, but a little bit sad about being back in civilization. Dangerously low on food, I hit the grocery store almost as soon as I got back into town. I decided that such a vacation calls for a celebration of color and earth. The fresh, local beets that happened to be on sale seemed more than appropriate.

I've had a fear of beets ever since my first job in the dietary department of a nursing home, where I had to puree massive amounts of the smelly, canned variety so the elderly could eat them with the straw. It was the worst part of the job, even worse than buttering 600 pieces of toast with a paintbrush.

But these beets looked straight out of Peter Rabbit's garden. A deep, rich purple root, still caked in mud. They still had their tops, and the economical girl that I am, was lured by their dual purpose of root vegetable + green. That is two meals for a buck forty nine. I quickly got over my fear.

My lunch for tomorrow is still roasting in the oven as I write this.

Sweet Beet Roast

2 large fresh beets, washed, peeled and cubed
2 large carrots, washed, peeled and cubed
2 large apples [I used Macintosh] peeled and cubed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp herbs de Provence [rosemary, marjarom, basil, thyme and lavender]
dash salt and pepper

blanch the cut carrots and beets. Mix in with apples in 9 x 11 pan drizzle with olive oil, vinegar and a small amount of apple juice [reserve some for cooking]. Stir well. Add sugar, herbs, syrup and salt. Mix well again. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Roast for 30-45 minutes, checking and adding apple juice as needed to prevent dryness.

I plan on eating this with rice or couscous, but will also make lunchtime pita wraps with a smear of cream cheese or lebne [yogurt cheese], topped with the beet roast.

As for the greens, my idea is to make a salad out of whole wheat pasta shells, kidney beans and sauteed beet greens. Send ideas for a dressing along my way.

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