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bodacious beets…
what they did not teach you in school

Beet Salad by Cathy Nelson Arkle

Beets belong in the category of vegetables I hated as a child. Anything that slid out of a can was high on the “yuck factor.” It was only until my girlfriend Nan gave me the “roasted beet challenge.” She said don’t tell me you hate beets until you have eaten a roasted one. Since I always enjoy a good challenge, I bought a single beet as I didn’t want to have too much to throw out. I wrapped it in foil, threw it in the oven for an hour and silently anticipated it’s doomed fate. Well the joke was on me as I devoured that tasty sweet thang with vigor.

Sweet Beets

Nutritionally speaking, the beet is a kindred spirit to the carrot, although it is much higher in sugar. In fact, of all vegetables, the beet has the highest sugar content. Not sure how I missed this opportunity to eat more sugar as a kid… oh yeah… my mother served it out of a can. It is estimated that about two-thirds of commercial beet crops end up canned. So sad.

Beets (everywhere else in the world they are called beetroot) are thought to have originated in prehistoric times in N. Africa. It is said that beetroot remains have been excavated in the Third dynasty Saqqara pyramid at Thebes, Egypt. I must of missed that when I was there.

Sand Storm at the Saqqara Pyramid in Thebes, Egypt

I couldn’t see much because I was too busy making a fashion statement in a blinding sand storm.

And the beet goes on…

Beet leaves have been eaten since before written history. The beet root was generally used medicinally and did not become a popular food until French chefs recognized their potential in the 1800’s. You have to love the French!  I wonder if they were the ones that came up with making beet wine.

Since Roman times, beet juice has been considered an aphrodisiac. Was that before or after it was made into wine?

If you are not getting your beets in wine, you might be able to get it in frozen pizza. Yep, some frozen pizzas use beet powder to color the tomato sauce.

Beets can even help melt snow! One way or another you are going to get your beets if I can help it.

Why? Because beets are loaded with lots of good stuff like antioxidants and nutrients, including magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C.

Some experts say adding beet juice to your diet could provide a performance boost even beyond the blood, sweat and tears of more training. Does this mean I don’t have to go to the gym anymore?

Don’t take my word for it. According to the NY Times Blog, beets are among the 11 best foods you aren’t eating.

Cathy’s Bodacious Beet Salad

If this recipe was a piece of art it would be mixed media. I took a little of this and a little of that from different recipes to make this as I saw it in my mind. The Santa Monica farmers market provided the fresh ingredients for this salad. I used french thyme because that what was growing in my herb garden, but use what you like. The dressing generously Serves 2.

Beet Salad Ingredients 

  • 2 fresh red or yellow beets
  • 4 ounces goat cheese – rolled into balls I used Redwood Hill Farm’s traditional chevre
  • french thyme – a couple sprigs per ball, washed well and dried
  • 2 cups micro greens or any small leaf greens – washed well and dried I used sweet baby lettuce with edible flowers from Harry’s Berries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted – I used Peacock Family Farm’s locally grown walnuts

Walnut Oil Dressing Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil – I used La Nogalera Walnut Oil I could just drink this stuff plain!
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse kosher salt, pepper

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place the beets in the pan, leaving a little of the root tail on. Rub olive oil over the beets, and sprinkle with salt. Cover the beets with another sheet of aluminum foil. Roast for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the beets and how old they are. After 1 hour, test every fifteen minutes by poking a beet with the tines of a fork. Once the fork tines go in easily, the beets are tender and cooked. Remove from the oven.
  2. While beets are roasting, mix the dressing. Whisk the dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar together.  While you are whisking or using a hand blender, slowly add the walnut oil and then olive oil to make an nice emulsification. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  3. After the beets have cooled for several minutes, peel off the outer skins and discard. If you do this under running water you will avoid staining your hands. Cut the bottom of the beet so it will sit up straight. Then cut the beets into quarters, but not all the way through.  Place on a plate and open it up like a flower.
  4. Roll the goat cheese into little balls about 1/2” in diameter and roll in the fresh thyme.
    Place ball in the middle of the beet.
  5. Add your baby lettuce around it and drizzle the walnut oil over the salad.
  6. Add toasted walnuts

Ta-da! Long live the beet season. Thanks Nan for the beet challenge. I wonder what other yucky childhood vegetable will next on my discovery list?
…and then she paused for thought.

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Wild about Watermelon

watermelon on grill

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE:

“…when one has tasted watermelon he knows what the angels eat…” – Mark Twain

square watermelon

Mark Twain and King Tut have different beliefs on who eats watermelon. Whether it’s angelic or royalty, Homer Simpson is the one who knows how to pick a proper one.

Click here to see the video.

I have read about an Egyptian tradition to put watermelons in the burial tombs of pharaohs as a present for their afterlife. As unusual as this sounds, numerous watermelon seeds were recovered from the tomb of King Tut.  I wonder if that meant King Tut ate the watermelons and spit out the seeds in his afterlife. Strange… I was in Egypt a few years ago and apparently missed the watermelon hieroglyphics. I went on a google pics quest to no avail, so I thought I would “imagine” what it would look like.

egyptian watermelon hieroglyphics

PHOTO ENHANCEMENT BY CATHY NELSON ARKLE

The current thought is that watermelon originated in Southern Africa, where it is still found growing wild, in the Kalahari desert.  What I love about watermelon is every part of the watermelon is edible, even the seeds and rinds. Now that is what I call “wholestic” eating!  Watermelon doesn’t contain any fat or cholesterol and is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6 & C, and contains fiber, potassium and lycopene. It doesn’t get much better than that! Continue Reading →

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