Entries from November 27th, 2014

Beet Hummus

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Do you know what the overnight low was for the Twin Cities last night? Two. Two degrees.

Two!

Year after frigid year, Minnesotans soldier through winter with a steady kind of pride. There is a charm to their manic ways, even if it makes me feel inferior. I grumble to my car, shake my fist at another gray sky, and take note of their exuberance as they chip ice from their windshields and their beards. While they jog next to ice-slicked streets, cheeks flushed and ponytails swinging, I stand shivering from our tiny porch, puffing the one cigarette I allow myself each week, staring through a web of spindly branches to a setting sun that colors the sky ombre, until the steady pock pock of running shoes slices clean through the belly of winter silence. The sound draws my gaze downward to seek the perpetrator, this loony human being who dares to exercise in these extreme conditions. Smoke curls skyward from chimneys, lights glow from windows, and we all scurry like mice to keep warm and stay busy. After a fresh snowfall, this neighborhood is a living snow globe. I take walks for better views, because it’s the closest thing I will get to running in the cold, and because I like to look in the windows of people’s houses. From the sidewalk.

Until we emerge from this monochromatic stretch of gray, white, and slush, I say we search for color elsewhere. Are you in? Because I~~~’ve got something for YOU.

beet hummus

I’ve been tinkering with beet hummus for a few weeks now. Roast the beets or keep them raw? Roast. Puree them smooth or keep them textured? Textured. Blend the beets with the hummus? No, swirl them. And then there was the question of sumac. Sumac is a flowering plant that produces bright crimson berries, and these berries are ground into a tart powder often added to hummus, rice, salad, or kebab. Some sumac plants are poisonous. I bought a small jar of it (the un-poisonous kind) with the intention of making za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend of sumac, thyme, and sesame seeds. One day, za’atar will be made, but until then, I will stare at this jar and try to dream up other ways of working through it besides sprinkling it over scrambled eggs. The usual. Any ideas?

sumac

Onto the reason we’re here–the hummus. If you don’t make hummus from scratch, this will sound like a pretty simple recipe, and it is. I wanted it to be easy and pretty, but with a couple of optional twists that could be added at the end to make it special. Sumac is tangy, bright, and really nice against the earthy sweetness of the beets. A garnish of fresh rosemary would not be very pleasant to bite, but a few crispy fried leaves is something else entirely. If you want to skip either the sumac or the rosemary, or both, you’ll still have a pretty bowl of hummus. The olive oil, though, is a must.

Beets are in season when we need their nutritional benefits and stunning color the most. Folate is good for detoxification, and it promotes cardiovascular, neural, and psycho-emotional health. Manganese supports bone health, fertility, and memory. Potassium keeps our brains functioning, stabilizes blood sugar, boosts metabolism, and helps us naturally regulate stress. If you need more reasons to eat more beets, you might consider Tom Robbins’ ode to the root. From Jitterbug Perfume:

~“Of course, there are white beets, beets that ooze sugar water instead of blood, but it is the red beet with which we are concerned; the variety that blushes and swells like a hemorrhoid, a hemorrhoid for which there is no cure. (Actually, there is one remedy: commission a potter to make you a ceramic asshole­–and when you aren’t sitting on it, you can use it as a bowl for borscht.)

An old Ukrainian proverb warns, “A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil.”

This is a risk we have to take.”~

Happy Thanksgiving to you, to the ones you love, and to the people with whom you’re ambivalent.

beet hummus

Beet Hummus with Sumac

hummus (store bought or homemade)
roasted beets*
extra virgin olive oil
sumac
fried rosemary leaves**

In a bowl, combine hummus with chopped roasted beets. Stir to swirl. Add a mandatory glug of olive oil. Sprinkle with sumac and fried rosemary, if desired. Serve with pita, blanched or raw vegetables, sliced apples, olives. Anything you’d like to dip with.

*To roast beets:
Rub unpeeled, whole beets with salt, wrap in foil, and roast at 400 degrees F until a knife can easily pierce through the center of each beet. Let them cool, then peel them, then pulse in a food processor or chop by hand to a small, rough dice.

**To fry rosemary:
Pick leaves from a branch (about 12-15, or more if you want to have extra on hand to sprinkle over soup–highly recommended). Set a plate with a paper towel next to the stove (this is to drain the oil from the rosemary once it’s done frying). Heat a skillet, then pour in enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Use avocado oil, coconut oil, or another oil that can withstand higher temperatures. When the oil is heated, add rosemary leaves. Stir them to coat in oil, then let them get crisp. This takes seconds, so be sure to keep a close watch. Carefully transfer to the paper toweled plate to let the excess oil be absorbed.

Reading and Eating Lists

Monday, November 3, 2014

Winter reading list

What’s on your reading list this season?

In anticipation of winter, I’ve been gathering books like a rabid squirrel hoarding nuts. Do rabid squirrels even eat nuts, or, once bitten, do they turn into carnivores? Now there’s an under rated topic in the blogosphere. Moving on.

Almost always, the books I read have been recommended by friends, and that’s true for each of these. How do you choose your books, and do you have any that you can’t wait to crack?

On the list:
Blue Plate Special, a food-focused memoir by the great Kate Christensen.

Population: 485 by Michael Perry, a true account of the author’s return to his hometown of New Auburn, Wisconsin.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, about the many possible lives of one woman born in 1910.

Eating on the Wild Side, a gift from Niki, a book about selecting and preparing foods to recover lost nutrition and flavor, by Jo Robinson.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, the story of one lieutenant’s heroic journey and survival after his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific during World War II.

The Year of Magical Thinking. Joan Didion’s thoughts during the year following her husband’s death.

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh, a novel of “adventure, identity, unlikely love, and history” set among the tiny islands of Sundarbans in the Bay of Bengal. MJ’s recommendation. When MJ recommends, I know enough to take her word.

Sometimes I’ll stop at a bakery for a baguette and end up eating three quarters of it in the car on the way home from work. And sometimes I make lists of recipes, including a couple of less irrational choices, mostly to try to avoid the baguette situation.
In the recipe queue:

Beet Caviar
Olive Oil Ice Cream
Bánh xèo
The Best Apple Pie He’s Ever Made
A Gibson
Cinnamon Sleep Tonic

Have a lovely week. xx

Corn-Salad Plenty