Friday, March 12, 2010

Kids Make Beet Salad

I teach something I call "food appreciation" classes to kids in the after-school program at a private elementary school here in the District of Columbia. It's a great way to teach kids about healthful eating and foods (especially vegetables) they might not otherwise try. Each week I post the recipe the kids have made in class.

By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

Did we really have to go all the way to South Africa to make beet salad?

My food appreciation classes continue on their virtual world food tour and this extremely simple beet salad turned up in the African cookbook we are using as a reference. There's nothing especially African about it, but it is seasonal and when I thought about it, I realized in the four years I've been teaching these classes we have never used beets. It was high time we did.

I wasn't sure how much the kids would like beet salad. This is one of those vegetables people lover or hate. But I knew the kids would love handling the beets because of the red juice that looks very much like blood. Sure enough, the kids squealed with delight as soon as they saw the "blood" on their hands. Pretty soon, some of them had it all over themselves--their hands, their arms, their faces. Cutting the beets turned out to be some of the best fun we've had in ages.

I do have a little bone to pick with the way beets are sold these days, however. At most of the grocery stores I visit, they charge $3.99 for a bunch of three little beets with the greens attached. Normally, I love beet greens. But only when they are fresh out of the garden, not when they are days old. So I am not impressed by three little beets with tired greens attached--especially at $3.99. Where were all the big, bulk beets we used to see in the store?

It wasn't until I walked to my fourth store--a local organics shop--that I finally found what I was looking for: big, heavy, bulk beets with no greens. Never was I so glad to see a bin full of gnarly root vegetables.

To make this salad, cook 1 pound beets in a big pot of water. Beets take a rather long time to cook. Once the water has come to a boil, lower the heat so the water is just bubbling. Test the beets occasionally for doneness. I use a metal turkey trussing skewer. When the beets are done, the skewer will pass easily into the middle. Remove the beets from the water an allow to cool, preferably overnight.

My favorite part of using beets is peeling them after they've cooked. I just like the way the skins slip off. Then slice the beets into pieces and cut these into medium dice, or chop roughly, as you like, and place them in a mixing bowl. Add 1/2 red onion, cut into small dice, and stir in 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, freshly ground pepper to taste.

The original recipe did not call for olive oil, but I thought the salad looked drab. In my world, as I explained to the kids, olive oil makes everything smile. And you can see immediately how the salad livens up--or "smiles"--when you stir in a little olive oil.

And that's all there is to making our beet salad. We served it in cups with spoons. I also like this salad with pieces of fresh tomato added and an herb such as mint, or perhaps anise hyssop.

1 comment:

  1. My kids love beets. We roast them and toss them with a blue cheese. It is one of their favorite foods. (And, yes that was me at the whole foods yesterday digging through the pile of beets to find a bunch with fresh greens).

    Of course, if they served beets in school, you know it would be the gross canned version that made an entire generation believe they hated beets. This is why we need farm fresh food at school, so kids learn that veggies taste good.