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June 24, 2009

Making Beets Useful (Think Pasta)


When most people buy a bunch of beets, they tend to regard their purchase as one kind of food. They wonder what to do with the bulbous root, and answer the question of what to do with the tops by throwing them out. Out of sight, out of mind.


A few among us see this purchase as two kinds of food. We realize that the beet greens themselves can be a useful food once a little effort is applied. They answer the question of what to do with the stalks usually, again, by throwing them away. Few are those among us who see this purchase as a three-part play. The root can be eaten, but the stalks themselves can also be eaten separately from the leaves. In this regard, a purchase of a beet bunch is really an investment in multi-layered cooking. A better deal you will not get if your grocery gives away its other food!


Start with simple, eating a raw stalk. Note that its texture is like a stalk of celery while also maintaining a slight hint of beet. In fact, you may do all the things with it that you would do with a normal plate of raw vegetables, on which you may indeed find beet root and celery stalks.


We go a step further and make pasta. Think a moment of where we are to descend – beet stalk pasta – and allow your mind to be blown just a little bit.


As with all pasta dishes, we follow the rule of proportion. Cut your beet stalks into two-or three-inch pieces. Proportionately, the pasta of choice will be straightened bends of macaroni.


Hopefully you can find some in your grocery store and aren’t forced to attempt to straighten dried macaroni elbows – these efforts very nearly always degenerate into the wailing and gnashing of teeth reserved for Judgment Day.


While you are cooking the pasta, heat some olive oil and minced garlic. These are the two necessary precursors to nearly every pasta dish anyway. Then add the beet stalks and some minced onion.


You will perhaps notice that some of what appears to be a reddish fluid is seeping out of the stalks, and may be concerned that the stalks are in fact bleeding from being cut.


They are, and you may flee in terror if you like. Or you may take this as a very natural process and cook the beet stalks until they are softened.


Once done, finish this quick sauce off with some lemon juice and dill weed. Both are natural accompaniments to beet stalks and greens and will give your little side pasta dish some flavor not normally associated with pasta. That’s frankly OK with the beet stalks, since being normal is not what they are all about.


Meanwhile, drain the pasta while setting aside a little of the water to assist the sauce in coating all of the pasta. Salt and pepper to taste, and consider serving alongside either chicken or maybe even fish.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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