If last week was about confronting my CSA enemy, this week was all about reuniting with a good CSA friend: beets. It took me a while for my love affair with beets to ignite, but when it did, I never looked back. In addition to being gorgeous and delicious, nutritionally speaking, beets have it all: folic acid, iron, magnesium, calcium, fiber, B-complex vitamins, potassium, and more. A beautiful bunch arrived in the share, the first we’ve received this season, and I pondered which of my many favorite recipes to prepare. As I considered my options, I realized that most recipes I love call for peeling the beets—a rather arduous and messy task. No matter which technique I’ve tried—peeling while raw, roasting wrapped in tin foil, roasting not wrapped in tin foil, boiling—I’ve never found the peeling process to be as simple as every cookbook promises. So I decided to go with a simple roasted beet recipe, shared with me by my good friend Stephanie Pell, which does not require peeling the beets. Not only is this a huge time saver, but—CSA psolet challenge bonus!—you create less waste by eating the peels instead of throwing them away.
The secret to this recipe is the parchment paper, which allows the beets to caramelize while roasting and release their delicious inner sweetness. Do not skip this step! On its own, this dish can be served warm, room temperature or cold, and it’s a fabulous accompaniment to fish or meat; you can also toss the beets in a garden salad, mix them with goat cheese and some arugula, or add to a hearty cooked grain like wheatberries along with some nuts and other veggies for a complete meal.
You might also consider serving these beets, a traditional new year food, at your Rosh Hashana table this year. The Talmud offers us a list of five foods that one should eat at Rosh Hashana, each with symbolic meaning: “Abaye said, ‘Now that you have said an omen is significant, at the beginning of the year each person should accustom himself to eat gourds, fenugreek, leeks and dates.” (Tractate Keritut, 6a)
Each of these foods is considered an ‘omen’ for the new year based on a pun relating to its name. Beets make the list because their Hebrew name, selek, shares its root with the Hebrew word for removal, and the prayer traditionally recited before eating beets at the Rosh Hashana table asks for the removal of our adversaries (be they physical or spiritual):
Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu sheh-ye’stal-ku oy-vay-nu
May it be your will Eternal God that our adversaries will be removed.
With the holiday falling so early in the secular calendar, temperatures may still be high, and a cool side dish will be most welcome as part of the holiday feast!
Roasted Lemony Beets
3 large or 6 medium red beets
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1-2 lemons, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Trim the greens and any long tails from the beets, and scrub them well. Halve the beets, then cut into slices about ½ inch thick. (If the beets are quite large, you can quarter them.)
Toss in a large bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper until the beets are coated, but not dripping in oil. Spread on a baking sheet so that they are in one layer. Cover with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the size of the baking sheet.
Roast the beets until they are tender but not mushy—approximate 30 minutes (could be a little more if you’ve cut the slices on the thicker side). Remove from oven, transfer to a large bowl and bathe in lemon juice. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold.
This rest of this week’s CSA share practically cooked itself. A beautiful Boston lettuce and a large cucumber became a salad the evening I picked up the vegetables. The next day, the eggplant, Walla Walla onion, and two zucchinis made their way into a ratatouille, while the leeks joined up with some goat cheese to make a creamy quiche. The carrots were so tender and sweet that after roasting them in olive oil with some Tosca onions from the farmers market, they needed no other seasoning than a little salt and pepper. I sautéed the beet greens and stems with some garlic and crushed red chili pepper, but still found them to be quite bitter; to add some tang, I mixed in a little Dijon mustard after cooking them and found that it made the greens much more palatable.
Surprisingly, the basil was far less gritty and much easier to clean than I generally find basil to be, so I was inspired to buy another bunch at the farmer’s market; keeping good on my promise to try new techniques, I made a big batch of walnut pesto. I found that by cleaning the basil leaves right away, most of them kept well for a few days until I had time to make the pesto.
I am pretty triumphant after this week’s challenge, with very little psolet left over, save for the very tips of the leeks, eggplant and zucchini; some basil stems and a few basil leaves that turned bad before I got to making the pesto; the onion skins; and a few greens from the carrots. I almost feel a little guilty claiming credit for using up all the veggies with minimal waste—everything was so fresh and delicious I could use the simplest of recipes to cook everything up.
Shuli Passow started her relationship with CSA’s in 2004 when she joined Hazon’s first CSA at Anshe Chesed, and is now a member of Hazorim, a Hazon CSA at B’nai Jeshurun. When she’s not cooking locally grown vegetables, Shuli keeps busy as a fourth year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary and rabbinic intern at New York University. A former Hazon board member, Shuli has worked as a Jewish educator and communal professional for nearly 15 years.