Finally, the weather has turned. Time to turn on the furnace, put the shorts in storage and break out the sweaters. And with this change, we should also be aware of our bodies' changing needs. There's a school of thought that believes eating locally allows us to nourish our bodies with exactly what they crave based on the seasons. So, as the weather turns cooler, we unconsciously seek out warming, starchy meals -- potatoes, squash and root vegetables are perfect foundations for Fall meals. If we can live in harmony with nature, so the theory goes, our bodies will maintain a perfect balance throughout the changing seasons.
I tend to be fairly unimaginative in my choice of root vegetables -- acorn and butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes -- yes, in fact anything that's traditionally found on the Thanksgiving menu. But this year I've been inundated with beets from my CSA.
Now, full disclosure, I loathe beets. Just can't stand them. Their color stains everything: plate, food, teeth, clothes. Perhaps the fact that my mother, true to her New Zealand upbringing, served them with everything contributed to my prejudice. She was even known to put a thin slice on an egg salad sandwich. "But it's so lovely!" she'd exclaim when I'd grumpily pick it off. (True fact: if you go to a McDonald's in New Zealand today, you'll find a beet slice on your Big Mac as a standard topping. I've seen it with my own eyes.)
I have never bought beets voluntarily.
But now, I'm an adult, with an adult's horror of waste, and here I am with another bunch of big, dirt-encrusted beets with long, green, leafy stems sitting on my kitchen counter. Ugh. What can I do to make these palatable?
Beets are, actually, very, very good for you. They're low in calories, and filled with vitamin C, iron, potassium, folic acid -- oh, really, just about everything in your multi-vitamin. Beets are also rich in a compound called Glycine Betaine which studies have shown can help reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke.
But, up to now, my favorite recipe has been as follows (thanks, Sunshine842!):
Put beets in a paper bag.
Take to neighbor's house.
Place bag on doorstep.
Run like hell.
But really, I can't keep this up much longer. There must be some recipe out there that will make these babies palatable. After clicking through recipes on the Internet, asking friends, and paging through cookbooks, I've finally come up with an unorthodox recipe of my own. Something even my children will gladly eat!
Chocolate Beet Cake
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 oz. dark chocolate
2 cups pureed beets*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Confectioner's sugar for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 10" spring-form pan. Cream 3/4 cup butter with all of brown sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Melt chocolate with remaining butter in a small bowl in the microwave in 10 second increments. Stir in between each zap and make sure to stop before everything is totally melted (you should be able to stir everything smooth.) Allow to cool.
2. Blend chocolate mixture, pureed beets and vanilla into the creamed mixture. Combine flour through nutmeg and gently stir in. Pour into cake pan. Bake for 50 - 55 minutes, or until the proverbial toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then cool competely on a wire rack. Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.
NOTE: Make sure the cake is COMPLETELY cool before you eat it, otherwise you will get the creepy whiff of beets in your cake. But I promise this ENTIRELY disappears when the cake is cool. Remember, I hate beets, would I lie to you?
* To make the beet puree, trim stems and roots off beets then quarter them. Place in pot with water covering them and bring to a boil. Lower heat, then simmer for about 50 more minutes. Rinse beets in cold water, then slip the tough outer skin off. Puree in blender. Can be made in advance and even frozen. (It goes without saying that you'll need to defrost them to use them here.)