I was elusive to the beet for many years. Being adventurous with food from an early age, eating whitefish as a toddler and willing to try new foods, that round purple beet never appealed to me. My father and mother liked them either pickled or prepared some other way I was oblivious to.
On the first day of shooting for the cook book, one of the dishes was the Cool Summer Barscz soup. It was a light purple or pink hue with julienne sticks of beet in it. This was the day I was going to see how beets tasted. I can’t describe the taste well enough but knew then and there that the taste, consistency and feel of that soup in my mouth would make it an ideal dish on a hot summer day.
Truthfully, the beet was not my favorite food out of the entire book. However, it is one of the most important ingredients to me since it opened my eyes to a new flavor and taste with which I was totally inexperienced. The various applications and uses for the beet is expansive. The only prior way I had ever encountered it was in horseradish. I just liked the fact that it made the horseradish more manageable on my pallet and added some color to the bland gefilte fish that it garnished. I am happy that I now know the unique flavor profile of this vegetable and how it important it is to various dishes in Polish cuisine.
In honor of Matthew’s new culinary experiences, here is a traditional Beet recipe that works really well when served with pork roast and boiled or roasted baby potatoes. Since we’re still in Lent, these beets will be stunning on a plate next to your favorite white fish. Smacznego!
Beets, Polish Style
2 one-pound cans of red beets, (not pickled beets) drained and finely chopped
½ cup beet juice, reserved from the cans
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
In a pot, whisk the flour into the beet juice and mix well. Add the chopped beets and bring to a low boil. Add the sugar and a pinch of salt. Add half of the lemon juice and taste. The beets should have just a hint of lemon, to compliment the sweetness of the beets. Add more lemon juice and salt to taste.
NOTE: if you have some extra time, start with six medium peeled, fresh beets. Cover with water in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and simmer for about 45 minutes or until just fork tender. Remove from pot and cool. Retain half a cup of the beet juice. Once cooled, chop the beets, and follow the recipe as above.