And the beet goes on. kitchen adventures.
It is later than I would like when I get home, delayed by work and an unexpected run-in with R., who is in the fashion business, always looks impeccable from head-to-toe, and tactfully manages not to wince when confronted with my messy hair and baggy sweaters over jeans and sneakers. He advises me on what to wear with the new shoes I just bought, and double-dog-dares me to wear them to work. (Not happening). The conversation brings a laugh to my lips that buoys me all the way home, into the kitchen where I lean against the open refrigerator door and try to decide whether to experiment with the beets from the market or just settle for some frozen pizza of uncertain provenance. Even though it is nearly six, and I don't know how long it will take to roast the beets, I plump for a dinner of roasted beets and tiny new Yukon Gold potatoes, since I am alone and don't have to worry about dinner companions who might consider this a rather peculiar sort of meal.
I scrub the beets under running water and trim them a little, leaving about an inch of the stalks at one end but removing the raggedy tail and any stray rootlings. The fat purple beets go into a small roasting pan with a slosh of olive oil and some sea salt, and then into the toaster oven. Unfortunately, I have put too much olive oil in the pan and it is making unnerving spitting sounds after several minutes, so I move the beets into the range oven and leave them. The little potatoes are also scrubbed and trimmed, thrown into a Pyrex dish and tossed with more olive oil and sea salt and shoved into the oven on the rack beneath the beets. More spitting sounds ensue. I peer into the oven to see that the beets have shriveled a little, the skin darkened in spots, but when I stick a fork in, I meet with resistance. I stifle the urge to call up J. and ask him how long and at what temperature I should have roasted them. It is my own fault for not asking yesterday at dinner. A little while later, they seem tender when I pierce them with my fork. The skins have loosened, sagging away from the flesh, and it takes only a moment to peel and slice the beets, revealing a fuchsia-and-white striped interior. These are Chioggia beets, an Italian variety, and I regret that I had not sliced them crosswise to reveal concentric rings of color. Whoops.
Then the potatoes are done, their fragile skins peeling away, and I slice them in half and toss in a little butter and a scattering of Maldon sea salt. Dinner is ready. The beets are more delicately flavored than the red or golden ones I am familiar with, an interesting sensation. I sprinkle half of the thick wedges with a little more salt, and leave the other half plain (save for a bit of olive oil) so I can compare the two, and think of how Laurie Colwin wrote about how wonderful things tasted when they were left to themselves. I find that the beets need nothing, not olive oil, not salt, and I am glad I resisted the urge to add balsamic vinegar, or anything else that would distract from their flavor. I turn to the potatoes, which are hot and buttery - even the bits that didn't actually get any butter on them - and taste the way I never knew potatoes could taste. And even after the last bite, I find myself wanting more.