I had an epiphany at the Boston Local Food Festival on Saturday. I was standing in line at a farm stand, arms overflowing with vegetables, bright sunshine bathing rows of colorful vegetables in white light, and listening to the jangle of banjos from a Cajun band playing on a nearby stage when I realized: Why can’t buying produce always feel like this?
Going to the grocery store, bracing against its uncomfortable chill, wandering aimlessly in aisle after aisle of fabulously packaged goods competing for my attention as Top 40 music wails of love gone wrong – simply fills me with dread.
Would I consider buying kale in that kind of environment? No. Would I consider it in a sunbathed pile while a smiling farmer stands nearby? YES.
Alas, it is simply not possible to have this kind of friendly sun-filled shopping experience daily, or even monthly.
So. We make do.
But back to my moment at the Local Food Festival. I was looking the farmer who grew my vegetables in the eyes ready to pay when I suddenly said, “Beets! I need beets.” This surprised even me, because I don’t generally seek out beets.
“Try the golden beets, they are delicious and sweeter than regular beets,” she said. There was one bunch left. Mine.
“How do I cook them?” I asked.
What she said in response was so beautiful and simple, I have transcribed it below into a real recipe for you. Roasted Golden Beets – doesn’t that just sound like pieces of warm autumn light?
I staggered home on the subway with my load.
I had to hurry because I was heading to a peace march in the neighborhood next to mine. There had been a tragic and stupid quadruple homicide and Boston neighbors wanted to flow some loving and healing thoughts through the streets.
So I roasted up my beets, made this delicious salad and headed with a friend over to Mattapan. There we happened to meet and walk with a man who had been taught Sunday School by a young Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at 12th Baptist church in Roxbury. We shuffled around the block, past the scene of the crime, listened to local pastors pray through loudspeakers, and sang things like “This Little Light of Mine” and “We Shall Overcome.” The whole thing landed a spot on the 10 o’clock news.
It was a quite a day, from start to finish.
And now I’ll always associate golden beets with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the power of peaceful, healing thoughts.
Two golden beets, scrubbed and chopped in 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup slivered almonds (or walnuts or pine nuts), toasted
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon goat cheese (I used one flavored with sundried tomatoes and basil)
Red wine vinegar, to taste.
Bring a salted pot of water to boil as you wash and chop beets. Hard boil the beets for about 5 minutes, until tender. Turn the oven on to broil. Arrange the beets on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Roast beets until just beginning to brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven and season with salt and pepper. Stir almonds (or walnuts or pine nuts) over medium high heat until golden, you will not need additional oil to toast the nuts. Layer a salad bowl or plate with lettuce, add roasted golden beets, almonds, dried cranberries, and dab with goat cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Serves 1 peace marcher.
And if you are really interested, here is a video I made from the evening of the peace march.