Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hot July Sunshine and Warm Summer Rains

"The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious."
~Tom Robbins

I pull the bag of cooked, frozen beets out of the freezer just before leaving the house on my errands for the day. They are the surplus that didn't get canned back in September when I put up 18 jars of pickled beets. The freezer was the quickest way of dealing with the surplus, and now four months later they are destined to become dinner.

When I get home I take out my soup pot, and start the onions and garlic cooking in some hot olive oil. I'm so pleased at how well the garlic we grew is holding up. There are still more than a dozen heads left, all in good shape. I like garlic. A lot. So I'm sure there will be a gap between the last clove used and the start of scape season. We doubled our planting this fall though, so with luck that gap will get smaller this year.

The beets go in next with some salt and a splash of red wine. Some for the cook, some for the pot. Thinking of how I can brighten up the natural, earthy flavour of the beets I open a jar of the pickled ones and fork half the jar into the pot and pour in a quarter of the juice. The sweet and sour of the sugar and vinegar add just the right amount of acidity to the whole, and I'm quite sure I'm on the right track here.

Wanting to keep things simple, my herb of choice for seasoning is dill seed. My garden grew a dill forest of its own accord and I didn't argue. I love plant volunteers and the tall, feathery fronds of aromatic green are easy to just let go and do their thing. As a consequence, I now have a lot of dill seed. But that's a good thing because I like dill. A lot. I put it in almost everything.

A few sample tastes and I leave everything simmer for a while, coming back later to puree it with an immersion blender. Done. I spoon a couple of generous ladlefuls into a bowl and top it with the best yogourt in the world. The result is rich and creamy, earthy, slightly sweet, slightly sour and all good!

I love that I'm still eating from the garden. It's in the minus 20s with the windchill outside, but inside I'm cooking with hot July sunshine and warm summer rains.

*For anyone who hasn't really eaten beets before, they are colourful on the way in and on the way out, so don't be alarmed by what you pass the next day!

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