The many and various tints of red are among my favorite colors, followed immediately by the intense shades of purple. Next to the tomato, I adore the eggplant. Hardly a day goes by without a tomato in some shape or form at my table. But during the cold and windy months of fall and winter, I replace the eggplant with the beet in the kitchen. Both purple vegetables share a similar quality, namely their versatility. Though it is difficult to start with just one recipe, with the promise of many more to come, I have chosen to post this particularly simple combination of beets cut into ribbons marinated with the syrup of balsamic vinegar and thick yoghurt.
- 4 deep ruby-red beets
- 3 bay leaves
- 10 grams white wine vinegar
- 75 grams homemade balsamic vinegar syrup
- 120 grams thick Turkish or Greek yoghurt
- Himalaya salt or a sea salt from close to home
- A sprinkling of Nigella seeds
- A pinch of finely ground fennel seeds
Scrub the clay off the beets with a brush, rinsing them off well in warm water. Cover the beets in a pan of water, adding the bay leaves and white wine vinegar. Cook the beets until they are soft in the middle.
Depending upon the season and the size of the beets, the cooking time will vary from 25 to 45 minutes. If you feel so inclined, cover the beets in parchment paper and bake them in a ceramic dish in a preheated oven at 175 degrees for 35-45 minutes. Baked beets taste rich and slightly roasted. The structure of the beet is decidedly meatier. Whether boiled or baked, the beets will be excellent.
Let the beets cool in a colander until they are easy to hold on to. Peel their skins. Cut the beets into the thinnest of ribbons with a mandoline or the vegetable attachment to the food processor. An exceptionally sharp knife works as well. Stir the balsamic syrup through the beets and let the flavors mix a bit. Scoop the beets onto a platter and top it with the Turkish yoghurt. Sprinkle the two ingredients with Nigella seeds and the finely ground fennel seed. A bit of orange peel does wonders as well.
♦ Suggested combinations
Serve the marinated beets as an appetizer with toasted walnuts and some leaves of fresh lemon thyme, in combination with thin crackers or toasted brown bread. Make a salad into a meal by adding perfectly boiled ten minute eggs sprinkled with fresh chives, adding the seeds of the ruby-red pomegranate. Beets complement pink or white fish, like grilled Gulf of Mexico shrimp, or white North Sea bass stuffed with preserved lemons.
Add garlic to the yoghurt for a pungent effect. Mix and match red and orange beets for a varied color and taste effect. Sauté the marinated red beets and serve them as a warm salad, with or without pasta.
Beets can be prepared in advance. Once cooked they will keep well in the refrigerator for at least five days.
The balsamic syrup can be prepared for many uses. Double or triple the recipe and save what you don’t need in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Nigella seeds come from a flower that grows in Asia. These miniature black seeds are also called black caraway. They are commonly used in the Turkish kitchen and have a smoky flavor.
Fennel seeds are derived from the fennel plant and are small, oval and pale yellow. Fennel has a mild licorice flavor and is often confused with anise seed. Fennel is used in the southern Italian kitchen.
I love fennel seeds when combined with lemon. I recommend combining both ingredients sprinkled over green olives.