Beet the winter blues

by Sarah on December 13, 2011

beet salad with lemon juice

Potatoes, beets, onions, carrots…they are relegated to the back row at the green grocer, the work horses of the kitchen pantry. The front table is reserved for the “new release”. Now the strawberries have the privileged spot which it flaunts with brilliant color. The cashier coaxes the customers “They are the sweetest, just take a bite”, as he slices fruit with his pocket knife and offers samples.

In the mild climate of the Middle East, December is bountiful and not nearly as cold as the more northern regions. Greens flood the market; parsley, Swiss chard and spring onions are at their peak. The seasonal fruits range from the ordinary-the last of the pomegranates to the unusual- magenta pink cactus fruit with winglets called pitaya and feijoa, an exotic originating from South America (with a fragrance that has always reminded me of a dental clinic). These appear suddenly before fading away.

beets, carmel market

Piles of beets at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv

But it is during winter that the root vegetables shine, in their own quiet way. Nobody makes a fuss of what’s always available.  In the warmer months beets are often spongy, potatoes become gook with the least bit of over cooking and carrots, though bright orange, have a bitter tinge to them. It’s its better they do not get a solo part.

When they do come onto their own, complicated recipes are not necessary. Just a dash of salt, a swirl of olive oil or a squeeze of lemon.

beet salad

Beet Salad 

Beet salad is often part of the mezze spread at the local grill restaurants. I tried adding a teaspoon of mustard into the mix. I think I’ll leave it out next time. Vinegar can be used in place of lemon juice.

3-4 beets

4 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Salt

1-2 garlic cloves crushed

Small bunch parsley, finely chopped

Wash the beets but leave them unpeeled. Roast the beets in a 180°C oven until there is no resistance when pricked with a fork, about 45 minutes. When they are cool enough to handle peel and cut the beets into cubes. Alternatively, the beets can be boiled although this leaches much of the pigment out. Make a dressing from the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic and pour onto the beets. Add the parsley and toss to coat.

Other beet recipes popular in Israel:

Those of Iraqi origin introduced beet kubba to Israel, while the Eastern Europeans have always loved borscht. Yael Ruder shares her beet and goat cheese ravioli and Liz makes a winter salad with snow peas and beet greens. For those who love their salads doubly red, My Persian Kitchen tries a pomegranate and beet mix.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Yael December 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Gorgeous photos! Loved the effect of the pouring oil.

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Rosa December 13, 2011 at 12:52 pm

You certainly beet the winter blues with that magnificent salad! A root veggie I adore and eat on a weekly basis.

Cheers,

Rosa

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ariella December 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm

I am in serious need of some winter blues bee/ating. Beautiful post and looks simple and delicious.

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Silvia December 13, 2011 at 2:49 pm

I’m making a note to myself – never to buy feijoa, he he :)

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Zahavah December 13, 2011 at 10:42 pm

I love beets – always best to keep things simple when working with such great ingredients. I remember it being strawberry season when I visted you two years ago! What great produce options you have right now.

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usha December 14, 2011 at 12:11 am

Delish recipe, Sarah.
The bounty of winter such as you describe is prevalent in North India too. All kinds of root vegetables, tomatoes, cauliflower and cabbage kohl rabi ,spring onions, oranges, apples and guava, appear in the markets in all their healthy glory. Except for cactus fruit and feijoa….we don’t get those.
I like to think that the mounds of vegetables and fruit on push carts and markets are smiling at me.

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Liz December 14, 2011 at 2:04 am

How inspiring, I have a beet in the fridge. And I love your comment on fejoia!

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Yosefa @nonrecipe December 14, 2011 at 9:39 am

Clever title. I love beets. I wish they didn’t stain. I have to keep a close handle on my kids when they eat them. Did you know that beets and Swiss chard is the exact same plant, but one is bred for bigger bulbs and one for big leaves. Do you buy your beets with the leaves attached?

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Sarah December 17, 2011 at 5:46 am

Yosefa, I try to buy beets with leaves attached so I can see how fresh they are. Mostly the green grocer chops them off.

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Jamie December 17, 2011 at 5:43 am

Sarah! What gorgeous photos!!! And my husband loves beets and would love this salad. I am mixed…. but could see how this would be a great salad with something like roast chicken for a lovely lunch.

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My Turkish Joys January 3, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Sometimes simple is the best way to go! Lovely photo.

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