Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Beets, the easy way

I don’t mind getting messy; in fact, I sometimes like it. Hands in soft dough, fingertips scented with garlic, rare meat resting on a cutting board in a pool of its own juices.

I also don’t mind a little labor in the kitchen; I’m one of those crazy people who find peeling and slicing and shelling restorative. I would go so far as meditative, but am pulled back from the brink of maudlin by a keen awareness that some of you are gagging at the redolent prose already.

Let’s get back into the world I live in now, post-baby. I could be pulled back upstairs by the wails of a mad teether at any minute—no long sautés, no delicate sauces that require painstaking attention. I’m tired (said teether)—hours spent shucking peas and mooning over pans of risotto are replaced by a quick 15-minute workout, a bit of reading, and an early, early bedtime.

So when I find a recipe for a beloved, messy, time-consuming favorite that makes my life easy, easy, easy, it’s a bit of a miracle. Like Jamie Oliver’s recipe for baked beets. No more peeling, cutting, prepping, making of dressing. Just a pile of beets in a foil packet opened steaming at the table or left out all afternoon and served cool in their juices. When it’s just the two of us, we slip the peels off (or not) at the table. Otherwise, it’s short work (really, they slide right off) and well worth the stained fingertips.

Essentially, you scrub small beets and throw them onto a large sheet of foil with fresh marjoram or oregano, smashed unpeeled garlic, salt, pepper, and generous amounts of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Seal up the package, set on a cookie sheet in a 400-degree oven for an hour or so, and you've got lovely beets in a fabulous sauce.

I served them the other night with Nigella Lawson’s easy breaded goat cheese medallions (breaded in advance and thrown in the oven 10 minutes before dinner) from Feast and salad greens with oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. They're also good with chunks of feta cheese.

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