Friday, September 9, 2011

Peeling beets is cooking too

So, dear readers, remember how last week I mentioned a deadline? Well, that deadline ate my life. It kicked my butt. All the grand plans I had for the week, menu posting included, got entirely decimated. I am a deadline zombie. But the menu will get posted. Promise.
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B. is the head of the entire נשים מבשלות program. She co-teaches a course on business management, but mostly her job is to urge us, cajole us and nudge us into opening a business. Sometimes, when I am not in the mood to be urged, cajoled or nudged, it can be annoying. But the honest truth is that without B. I would not be doing this. I would have given up ages ago. But B. has pestered me and pushed me. She won't let go. She won't let go because it's her job not to let go, and she won't let go because she absolutely and completely believes in me and my dream. I tend to think that B. has an unshakable faith in the ability of women to do what they set their minds to. But more than that, she believes in the importance of women doing the things the set their minds to.
B., ironically enough, is not a cook. She stops by the kitchen almost every day just to see what's going on and to make sure that things are moving smoothly, but she would much rather have someone cook for her, than do it herself. One week I was standing in front of a tub of beets, staining my hands red as I peeled them, B. popped her head into the kitchen. 
"Why is she peeling beets?" she asked, referring to me. "She should be cooking. She needs the practice." 
So, I reluctantly removed myself from beet duty and went to do something else. What it was I can't really recall, but I'm sure it was more cooking-y. I was sort of irked, but only afterward, when I was in the pool (doesn't everybody do their best thinking in the pool?), did I realize what I had wanted to respond to B.-peeling beets is cooking too. 
Prep work is an integral part of cooking. There's no way around it. Those beets need to get peeled one way or another. To be honest, I don't much mind it. (Except for washing lettuce. I hate washing lettuce.) I find the repetitiveness soothing. I like to touch my food, to feel its texture and weight. To get a sense of it. Part of cooking is learning your food. Part of cooking is prep. 

I have been wanting to tell you guys about this salad for forever, but was holding out till pomegranate season. Lo, and behold, pomegranate season is upon us now and so here it is- my absolutely favorite recipe from the oft cited Book of New Israeli Food, by Janna Gur.

Beetroot and Pomegranate Salad

As usual, notes: While pomegranate concentrate sounds like a very exotic ingredient, it can actually be found in almost any Israeli supermarket. It'll be near the ketchup and other sauces. Also, Gur calls for the beets to be boiled, but I vastly prefer my beets roasted. If you have a fear of roasted beets, by all means, boil the suckers.

3-4 medium beets
2 tbl pomegranate concentrate
2-3 tbl freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 (or to taste) dried chili peppers, crushed
coarse sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 cup pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 375

1. Wrap each beet individually in its only little tightly-sealed packet of tin foil. Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until the beets can be pierced easily with a knife (exact cooking times will vary). Remove beets and when they are cool enough to touch, hold each beet (one at a time) between your hands, and pull the tin foil down, scraping the peel as you go. The peel should slip right off. Let the beets cool completely and then cut into a small dice.

2. Mix the beets with the pomegranate concentrate, lemon juice, chili peppers and salt. Set aside for about 15 minutes. 

3. Add the cilantro and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle olive oil on top. Serve.

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