The beet goes on

The shorter days and brisk morning air have had their toll on me, and all I want to do is burrow myself deep under my duvet... but I really was looking forward to going into work this morning. I had my my menu all planned out, and I had a pretty good idea how each dish was going to be plated. I could even taste how all the flavours would meld into beautiful combinations!

So you can imagine my disappointment when I got to work and was unable to find the beets I had asked for!!! I had a clear image of the beautiful, bright magenta purée contrasting with gorgeously seared scallops, a shot of dark green leaves underneath, and a streak of orange reduction.

I even brought my camera to work, so that I could show you the result.

But the beets had gone into a soup, and there was my dish shot to pieces... I made a sweet potato purée instead. The plate was still pretty. A Good seller in any case, but I was too heartbroken to take a picture.

I resolved to make myself some beets for dinner, but my Mum swung by with supper in hand, so there goes another photo op!

All this hoopla to say that the chilly weather has definitely settled in, no more talk of Indian Summer. The fields are pretty much bare around here, but one can still speak of 'seasonal products.' For one thing, if you are a meat eater, it's hunting season: duck. goose, and larger game are in, and fans of strong flavours are in for a treat. Unless you own a registered gun and a hunting licence, your best bet for getting your hands on real game is a good butcher. I must admit that I haven't actually stepped in a butcher shop in recent years, so I am not actually sure that wild game is legal for sale in Canada. Do any of you out there know?

I remember seeing wild hares, and geese hanging in butcher shop windows in Europe. I also remember seeing small game at the butcher shop when I was a kid, but I must say that I haven't seen a hanging carcass in Montreal of late. In any case, a butcher worth his mettle will carry farmed game, if not the wild stuff. You'll have to ask him for recipes though, because game meat is a little beyond me.

Seasonal products more in my range are all the root vegetables that are being kept in storage to last us through the cold weather... Beets are top of the list for me! They're sweet and savoury, and are such a cheerful colour, what's not to love about them? Apparently alot, but I say pshaw! Roasted beets, sliced or diced and rolled in brown butter with a dash of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar is a worthy side dish for duck or any other dark meat. Borscht is an absolutely heartwarming soup and could be a meal in itself. Warm beet salad with orange segments, pine nuts (or hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, almonds...) and a sliver of goat cheese is practically a bistro classic, and made all the more pretty with rainbow hued beets. And, alas, my lovely beet purée that was not to be today... Silky smooth, and shockingly magenta, it is the perfect foil for tender, melt in your mouth, pan-seared scallops.

The sweetness of the beets really highlights the natural sugars in seafood and is a perfect accompaniment for fruit-friendly meats, like duck and pork... How does roast pork stuffed with prunes with beet sauce (basically a runny purée) sound?

Red beets are known to stain, though I find that roasting them makes them more colourfast-or maybe it's just because I shed my skin very quickly... I don't know, but my hands seem to stay pink much longer when I peel boiled beets. Either way, the only time I wear an apron in the kitchen at home is when I handle beets.

Another interesting fact about beets: if you have, or know of, young children who are just learning about digestion in their science class, beets can be a fun learning 'tool'. Indeed, the potent red pigments in beets are resistant to our digestive track, so kids can keep track of their food. Literally.

Oh come on! Everyone number-twos and number-ones! It's amusing to most kids (and a few adults), except for princesses, and it is one way to get even the most reticent child to eat beets.

So on that note, bon app'!


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