Give Beets a Chance


cookin' with kibby fresh beets.jpg

i dig some fresh beets!

I want you to think back to your childhood: What was that one thing that you just could not stand to eat as a kid?

For me, the first thing that automatically comes to mind is pickled beets.

Some people really enjoy eating pickled beets. My dad and my wife’s dad both enjoy eating pickled beets. I grew up hating beets; it was one of those things my parents insisted on having for dinner every now and then, and I would just have to choke them down.

Now, understand that I did not hide the fact from my folks that they made me want to puke. They knew it, and they fed them to me anyway.

Better beets

It wasn't until many years later that I came to realize that beets were something that grew in the dirt and did not in fact have to be eaten pickled. They can actually be purchased raw from the produce section of the local grocery store - or, even better, from the farmers market -  and they could be roasted or sauteed in butter and lemon juice and poppy seeds and make for a delicious warm side dish.

It was when I worked at Marcella’s Italian, a Cameron Mitchell restaurant in the Short North of Columbus, Ohio, that I remember first tasting the true sweetness of a chilled, roasted beet on a bed of arugula greens with lemon vinaigrette dressing and fresh goat cheese. The ingredients just play so well together: the spiciness of the arugula, the creaminess of the goat cheese, and then that sweet, earthy flavor of the roasted and chilled beets.

If you’re one of those people who believes beets are disgusting and worthless, perhaps you should try preparing them the way I’ve explained and demonstrated at the Union County Farmers Market. You may be pleasantly surprised at how delicious they can be!

conversion factor

It has been one of my greatest joys, during my many years as a chef, to convince people to rediscover ingredients they once thought repulsive and find them much better than they expected.

Eggplant is another one of those really divisive vegetables, and I've been able to convert a few skeptics with a Japanese preparation that I've learned called Nasu Miso, which is a diced eggplant that is braised in a sweetened soy and then tossed with a miso paste sauce. It’s a complex balance of flavors that really brings out the best of the eggplant. Going back to Marcella’s Italian, we had a great dish their called caponata which is kind of like a cold vegetable salad made with peppers and olives and eggplant. It’s so delicious, so briny. There's also eggplant Parmesan.

Brussels sprouts are a huge hit with my girls; roasted or fried in bacon grease, they are delicious. That's one of those those ingredients that gets a really bad reputation. There was a time when people only boiled or steamed them - never getting the the true essence out of the little heads of cabbage.

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if at first you don’t succeed,
try a different preparation!

So if if you have a kiddo that is refusing to eat something, maybe you could try to vary the preparation method. You may be surprised; it may just become one of their new favorites.

more choices, more possibilities

I think one of the things that has changed over the years - perhaps since when I was a kid and being forced to eat pickled beets from a can - is that the assortment of ingredients available in the grocery stores has changed dramatically over the last few decades. With the advances in agricultural technology and logistics, we're able to get more raw, fresh ingredients than we were just a short time ago, and that presents us home cooks with new opportunities to create dishes for our families that they would perhaps enjoy even more than if they were being fed something that was a little bit more processed. The possible disadvantage to that is that we then have to know how to prepare these dishes from scratch; it's a little bit easier to just open up a can of pickled beets and warm them up as opposed to having to roast them and peel them and season them properly. But I tell you what, once you understand those techniques, once you get a firm grasp of how to make those dishes come together, it really isn't that hard; the benefits far outweigh the costs.

So are you feeling adventurous?  What ingredient or dish are you going to give a try? Let me know in the comments section of this post or send me a Facebook message. I’d be happy to help you move away from the canned vegetables to something more fresh and satisfying. I’ll see you in the kitchen!

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sometimes a little change (like golden beets instead of red) can make a huge difference in flavor