Beet this Refined Delectability

In return for the many love and effort-filled meals that my mother has procured for family over the years, I decided a good Mother’s Day gift would be a healthily tasty–or tastily healthy–meal that we could savor and receive a gust of natural energy from. Beets were in the fridge and I remembered a recipe from a wonderful French cookbook (excellent gift)–Swinging French Jazz Bistro Favorite Parisian Bistro Recipes.

To be honest, beets were not my biggest allurers in the vegetable inventory, but I thought “Why not?” and why not was right! Here are some health incentives that will appeal to logos (your sense of logic) and then I’ll move on to the taste bud attraction. First of all, beets are very nutritious, yet low-calorie, bundles of sweetness. Having this sweet taste, they provide us with surges of energy and are fortunately very easy and very cheap! They can be bought for about $2 a pound and don’t even need to be cooked. An un-beet-able source of magnesium, calcium, iron, phospherous, fiber, and Vitamins A & C, beets also contain folic acid (pivotal for health of pregnant women) which is important for the creation and maintenance of new cells. (Give up those supplements and let nature be the one to supply you!) And, of course, the color of beets isn’t only a feast for the eyes but also for the health of our bodies. Betacyanin, which gives beets their striking red, is said to fight cancer, especially that of the colon.

So without further ado, let’s give the tongue a turn or two. The recipe is called “Roast Beet and Mâche Salad with Haricots Verts, Leeks, and Walnut Vinaigrette” and I have copied it from the Bistro cookbook (for which there is a link above!) along with my own pictures.

My Final Subject of Pride!

Ingredients:

4 or 5 beets, depending on how large they are                                                                       2 tablespoons vegetable oil                                                                                                     4 fresh thyme sprigs (or powdered thyme)                                                                             4 ounces (125g) haricots verts or baby Blue Lake green beans (I actually used asparagus), chopped into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces

-For the Vinaigrette-                                                                                                              1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60mL) sherry wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar)                                      1 teaspoon Dijon mustard                                                                                                     3/4 cup (6fl. oz./180mL) grapeseed or canola oil                                                                1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60mL) cold-pressed walnut oil (I just used regular walnut oil)                Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 leeks, white part only (I used the white part of Vidalia onions)                                             4 ounces (125g) mâche (lamb’s lettuce) or frisée (curly endive) (I just used lettuce 🙂         2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped and toasted (I prefer a handful which I toast on a pan with a little bit of oil – yumm!)                                                                                                          4 ounces (125g) goat cheese, cut into slivers (I say put as much or little as you like)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 °F (190 °C). In a large bowl, toss the beets with the oil. Separately wrap each beet and a sprig of thyme in a square of aluminum foil. (Or you can sprinkle the beet with powdered thyme – a little easier) Roast in the preheated oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the beets are tender when pierced with a knife. Unwrap and let cool.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the green beans for 5 to 10 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Using a slotted spoon or a wire-mesh skimmer (spoon with holes), transfer the beans to a bowl of cold water. Drain and set aside. In the boiling bean water, cook the leeks for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and let cool.

To make the vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk the vinegar and mustard together. Gradually whisk in the oils until emulsified (completely mixed). Season with salt and pepper.

Peel the beets. Using a sharp knife or mandoline, thinly slice the beets and arrange the slices to cover 4 salad plates. Brush the beets with vinaigrette. (This part makes you feel really sophisticated!) In 2 medium bowls, toss the green beans and leeks separately with the remaining vinaigrette. Arrange the green beans on top of the beets and top them with a mound of leeks.

Add bouquet of lettuce in the center. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts and garnish with slivers of goat cheese. Serve and savor!

Makes 4 servings

P.S. For me, there was a good amount of vinaigrette left over because it is only used for brushing and soaking (of the dish ingredients), so make sure to use it for a salad afterwards.

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Cutting ↓ Puts You a Cut ↑

Having previously gotten into a discussion with a fellow blogger, Pursue Natural, on the importance of moderation, I decided to make a post on this topic in which I will include some great cultural sayings which promote this vital health practice.

So, cutting down puts you a cut above! Yes, it is true that eating too little or dieting (which can sometimes be an abandonment of food altogether) is certainly unhealthy and not advisable! However, it is important for us to listen to the biological signs of our bodies and recognize when we are no longer hungry. In chapter 46 of journalist Michael Pollan‘s Food Rules, I found quite a few cultural sayings like “You need to tie off the sack before it gets completely full,” (German) and “hara hachi bu” – (Japanese for “people should stop eating when they are 80% full”) which advise us to quit the downing when our stomachs are no longer growling.

A few other examples: “The Ayurvedic tradition in India advises eating until you are 75% full; the Chinese specify 70% percent, and the prophet Muhammad described a full belly as one that contains 1/3 food and 1/3 liquid–and 1/3 air, i.e., nothing.” (quoted from Pollan’s Food Rules) Like the French, the Spanish also say “Tengo hambre” (“I have hunger”) and “Ya no tengo hambre” (“I no longer have hunger”) to express “I’m hungry” and “I’m full.” So maybe this is a good way to think of it; after all, we feel less inhibited by a content stomach than an overloaded one.

Ellie Krieger also explores some great tips in an article called Get Wise About Serving Size which include using smaller plates–making us cut down without even realizing it; maximizing our veggies–which fill our stomachs more than meats and oils do, especially with healthy nutrients; and “going easy on the helpings.” A family tradition which I also find very beneficial (and which I was happily surprised to find among Krieger’s tips) is a first course of vegetable purée soup. Just cook some cut-up vegetables in a little olive oil, water, and broth (bouillion works as well) and purée them in a blender/Thermomix/Vitamix. The soup tastes great and lets you go lighter on the main meal! (Some of my favorites are zucchini-squash-basil, carrot-ginger, and asparagus-almond.)

Not only is cutting down a simple way of moderating our quantities to what we actually need, but it also allows us to spend wisely on more quality and less quantity. As the French say, the best bite is the first!