Blissful Beet Purée and the Man Who Learned to Love Beets
My husband Greg was a man with a limited palate when we first began dating ten plus years ago. And if the truth must be told, my own palate was decidedly more akin to Lou Malnati’s Pizza than The French Laundry. But what Greg lacked in breadth of gastronomic experience, he made up for with a dogged willingness to try anything once. That was just one of the many reasons I fell in love with him, and it was a big one. Food had always been front and center in my world; I couldn’t share my life with someone who was apathetic about what was on their plate.
Over the years he’s picked and panned his way through stinky cheeses, pickled eggs, and lingua agrodolce (sweet and sour calf’s tongue). He’s comfortable knowing that his arugula salad is punctuated with foraged greens from our yard–greens like yellow wood sorrel and lambs quarters that we once considered as weeds. He’s not surprised to see a pansy sitting on top of his salad. He’s made friends with a whole fish that stared at him from the grill that it just barely fit on. He loves ahi poke. And recently he tried and liked conch pistol (known to have, ahem, aphrodisiac effects) pulled from a live conch. He prefers multi-grain bread with quinoa and millet: “the crunchier, the better.” Jicama, kolhrabi, mustard greens: “where have they been all my life?”
Greg’s list of tried and liked foods is a long one that continues to grow. And it’s a list that thankfully includes beets though they were a hard-won addition. A predictable pattern has emerged over the years. I receive (orphans from my neighbor’s CSA veggie box), make (yup, I’m always game for an experiment stoveside), buy (who can resist a packet of guava paste the first time they see it?), or order (fried pig’s ear from the Purple Pig anyone?) something. Greg tries it. And usually, he likes it. Mike Likes it. It is a rare occasion when he pans something. And when he pans something I love, like beets, I take it hard, very hard.
Greg agreed to try beets a couple of years ago. First up, a salad. I roasted the beets (It’s my very favorite way to cook them, because it brings out their sweetness.). I sliced them with care and partnered them with creamy mascarpone, toasted walnuts, and a generous drizzle of aged balsamic. I was downright giddy with anticipation as he brought the fork to his mouth.
“It’s okay,” he finally said. His face said it was a failure before he even spoke.
“Okay?” I asked in disbelief.
“Yah, I mean, I’ll eat it, but I don’t know that I’d want to have it again anytime soon.”
I couldn’t hide my disappointment–I L-O-V-E beets.
“Would you consider trying them again sometime if I prepared them differently?”
“Sure,” he said though I was certain it was only to erase the pitiful look on my face.
But I went with it, and a few weeks later we had them again in a tart. This time I got a “not bad”, which I knew was better than an “okay” but still not the reaction I craved.
Fast forward to Christmas 2010 at sister Annie’s house. We’re gathered around the island in her kitchen as she’s pulling treats from the fridge to tide us over until dinner. Out came a quart jar of my very favorite pickled beets. Annie makes the best pickled beets I’ve ever tasted, and this beet lover has tried her share. I’d never offered her beets to Greg. I mean, why waste something so precious on someone who can’t appreciate it.
So Annie offers Greg a beet. He takes it. I watch, miffed because there’s one less for me, and I’m certain I know how the story ends. I watch for the “they’re okay” look to appear on his face, because he probably wouldn’t say as much to my sister. And then the unexpected happens. It was like the scene from Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham when the man finally tries Sam’s green eggs. Greg’s face lights up brighter than the Christmas tree and he says, “these are awesome.” Not good, not great, not okay–”awesome.” Then he delivers the zinger, “how come you don’t make beets that taste like these?”
My response to his question isn’t fit to share here. Let’s just say it wasn’t my best moment. But I got over it quickly when I realized the implications: the man I love had finally learned to love beets. Now, six months later that same man loves this beet purée…almost as much as he loves Annie’s pickled beets.
Blissful Beet Purée
1 pound beets
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon grated horseradish
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
12 mint leaves
1/3 cup cilantro
1 teaspoon Roasted Spice Mix
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Wrap beets in foil and roast for 30-60 minutes depending on their size. If they yield slightly when pressed, they’re done. Remove the beets from the oven, let cool, and peel.
- Combine the roasted beets and all remaining ingredients in a food processor or blender. Whirl them together until you have a very smooth purée. Season with salt and adjust the flavors to your taste. When I’m feeling a little spicy, I double the amount of horseradish.
- Enjoy the purée alongside some salmon or your favorite egg dish, with slices of toasted pita, or my favorite way (pictured above) — perched on top of fresh sliced cucumber and finished with crème fraîche and chives. It’s summertime in a single bite.