A confession is in order on this grey day: when I made the switch to a vegetarian diet lo those many years ago, I wasn’t overly fond of vegetables. I had my standbys, including potatoes, corn, spinach, and the occasional salad. My brother used to call me the only vegetarian who didn’t like vegetables — somewhat of a stretch, in my opinion! But I remember, in those early days, many meals of cheesey pastas, potato casseroles, and veggie burgers. There were times I shuddered at a cooked carrot and eschewed tomatoes altogether. Itdid take me a few years before I fully embraced the beauties the vegetable world has to offer(I was 17-years-old when I gave up meat; give me a break), though I’m so glad I finally did.
Now, I eagerly await the weekly farmer’s markets, and happily load up my bag with all sorts of delicacies, from baby sweet potatoes, to rainbow chard, to green beans and heirloom tomatoes. I can’t imagine a life sans a fresh salad littered with bits of almond and radish, and dressed with a lemony, garlicky vinaigrette. I still adore cheese — perhaps too much — but what truly satisfies is a plate of fresh vegetables, locally grown if possible, painting my plate a wide range of colors.
One vegetable I certainly never anticipated liking back in those lackluster days is beets. And why should anyone like beets? They’re fairly ugly, often dirty, especially when from the farmer’s market, and are accompanied by an irritating brush of greens that might be used for stock in a pinch — let’s be honest here: those things will be dropped in the trash unless you’re particularly virtuous and have a compost bin — but are pretty much tasteless on their own. Yet somewhere along the way I had a roasted beet and realized it wasn’t half bad. And then I tried to roast a few myself. I concocted a little appetizer from roasted beets and brie (or blue) cheese, and found them to be a wonderful addition to salads. Last night, home late from work, I threw my haul from the market into the oven and let them roast for about an hour while I went on my run; when they were soft, I slipped them from their skins, chopped them up, and added them to my salad. They smell so good while they’re roasting, too — they have a sort of earthy, buttery scent that filled up my entire apartment.
Asparagus is another vegetable I’ve fallen for in recent years. I’ve steamed it, but it just never tastes quite right to me; too soggy, I think. It’s another one I like to roast, sometimes with a bit of parmesan cheese and basil, but more often with just a little salt and pepper and olive oil. I usually let a bunch — with the tough bottoms cut off — roast on 400 F for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then I’ll dress with a splash of balsamic vinegar or cut up and add to a salad. Haven’t tried both beets and asparagus in a salad because that might be a bit too hard on the intestines. But it’s tempting.
[I still don’t like eggplant, but that’s another story for another time.]
One bunch beets
Brie or blue cheese
Roast a bunch of beats on 400 F for about an hour, or until soft. Remove from oven and let cool, then peel off skin. Slice the beets to a medium thickness. Take a small cookie-cutter (I used a star) and cut into the slices. Spread one star with cheese, and top with another star. Use the toothpick to anchor. You may also forgo the whole cheese thing for they’re very good just on their own.