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Garden cooking with beets and raspberries

Jul 13th, 2010 | Category: Cooking

by Christina and Charles Claassen

The summer growing season is kicking, and gardens are full of good food. Many fruits and vegetables stand out on their own, and taste delicious when completely unadulterated. But sometimes it’s fun to experiment with recipes from the garden. While we could choose from dozens of great fruits and vegetables to highlight, beets and raspberries rate pretty high on our list. Beetroots bring an earthy, deep flavor to dishes, while raspberries romance us with their sweetness; and both offer rich, bright color to the table.
Beetroots may bring up memories of pickled beets, those soft disks of root swimming in wine-colored liquid. But, there is more to beets than that, and there are many varieties and colors that should not be ignored. Gold beets are tender, mildly sweet, and brilliant, but won’t stain your fingers and cutting board the way red beets do. Chioggia beets display beautiful concentric red and white rings when cut crosswise and have an intense earthy flavor. There are even white beet varieties.
Our generally cool, dry summers provide an ideal growing environment for beets, so most types do well. During the early season, the smallest, sweetest thinning beets are available. Farmers are harvesting the smaller beets from the crowded rows in order to allow room for select beets to grow larger. As summer continues, beet greens and the larger roots become available. You can expect to enjoy beets nearly year round, as winter storage beets are sown about this time of year, for harvest in the fall and winter.
So, what besides pickling, can be done with beets from the garden? Quite a bit, actually. The easiest and best-tasting way to cook beets is by roasting them. Tossing the quartered roots in olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper, then roasting on a baking sheet at about 400 degrees results in caramelized, crisp beets that taste both sweet and savory at the same time. Beets can also be shredded, tossed with a bit of vinegar, and added to salads raw. They can be used to make borscht (a Russian soup that can be served hot or chilled), or juiced (but only drink about 2 oz, preferably mixed in with other veggie juices). You can even include beets in chocolate cake.
Speaking of chocolate cake, why not make a chocolate-raspberry-beet cake? Raspberries are also flourishing this time of year, and as we all know, Whatcom County is one of the country’s largest producers of this fruit. There are early, midseason, and late varieties of raspberries, so we can enjoy them until the end of August. Just as there are different colorations of beets, there are also different colored raspberries. Talk to local farmers, at the market or a u-pick farm, to learn more about what varieties they specialize in.
The options for cooking with raspberries are endless. If you have more raspberries than you can use fresh, they are quite versatile for preserving. Raspberries make great jams, flavored vinegars and dressings. They also freeze well, making them a nice winter addition to a bowl of oatmeal. Raspberries add flavor to savory as well as sweet dishes, and can be served over grilled salmon or in a berry tart.
Beets are loaded with vitamins A and C, and the greens contain more potassium and iron than spinach. Betalains are the chemical pigments that give beets their bright coloring; they also scavenge free radicals and have antioxidant properties. These are the same chemicals present in raspberries. In addition to their protective nutrients, raspberries are packed with manganese, which helps regulate blood sugar levels.
So, try some of these recipes, or explore your own, and enjoy the bright red and gold colors of beets and berries. Not only will you experience something close to edible bliss, but you will give your body a shot of good health while you’re at it.

Charles Claassen has been a professional chef for almost 20 years and focuses on using local, organic, and wild-harvested edibles in his cooking. Christina is a freelance writer who enjoys trying Charles’ cooking. Together they run Sprout Catering in Bellingham.

Chocolate Raspberry Beetroot Cake
2 ½ cups shredded beets
2 bananas, mashed
1 cup butter, melted (or vegan
spread like Earth Balance)
3 cups flour (or GF baking blend)
½ cup baking cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pint fresh raspberries (save
a few to garnish the top of
the cake)
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients well.  In a separate bowl, mix the shredded beet with the bananas, blend in the butter, then add the dry ingredients. Mix just until combined, then add the vanilla, raspberries, and chocolate chips. Pour the stiff batter into a buttered and floured 10 inch cake pan and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Grilled Salmon with Roasted Beets and Raspberry Coulis
4 salmon filets (6 to 8 oz. each)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

1 bunch of thinning beets (1 to 2
inches in diameter)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

1 pint fresh raspberries

First make the raspberry coulis.  In a blender or food processor, puree the berries. Using a rubber spatula, press the paste through a fine sieve.  Discard the seeds and set the coulis aside.
Meanwhile, heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Trim the beet greens from the roots, leaving about one inch of stem attached to the bulbs.  Wash the beets, scrubbing away the smallest of the hairy little rootlets.  Quarter the beets, toss them in a bowl with the oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Roast in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until they are just fork tender but still have plenty of “tooth”.
Get your grill nice and hot (400 degrees if it has a thermometer).  Brush the salmon with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste and set on the grate.  Cook 5 to 7 minutes, then flip the fish once and only once.  It should flake but still be moist.
Serve the beets with the salmon, drizzling the coulis over each filet.

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