In its march towards winter, nature spreads out its technicolor cloak, weaving a leisurely but inexorable transformation around us, in our lives, our homes, in our kitchens. The produce stands, crammed just days ago with shiny peppers and crunchy cucumbers are now chock-a-block with plush pumpkins and burly butternut squash. The fragrant stone fruit that starred in our sorbets, tarts and creams vanishes almost overnight, leaving us scrambling for tart cranberries and crisp apples in its stead. Dewy, lacy lettuces are relinquished for tight-fisted Brussel sprouts, delicate Bing and Rainier cherries for ably-armored pomegranates, ovate-leaved posies of basil for sleek bundles of rosemary and sage. There are signs flashing everywhere, if we choose to heed them, to hunker down and bundle up against the elements, to fling out those wispy salads and bring on bubbly stews in cheery cast-iron casseroles. It is this mighty metamorphosis that motivates us into action today, and we head to our kitchens to cook up a storm with the harvests of the season, in a set of dishes that play up the colors of Fall, but retain the lingering glimmer of summer.
Flashier cousins of the common purple, garden variety, Golden Beets are at their peak in the Fall. Their reddish-orange skins are easily peeled away with a potato peeler to get to the paler interior flesh, with its trademark rings of cream set in gold. They are not as sweet as the regular beets, and have slightly earthier, carroty nuances. We love our beets grated and cooked up with an extra bit of spice to counter their natural sugars, and typically finish them with shreds of coconut, or in this case, peanuts to add some crunch.
Grated Golden Beets
1 Pound beets, golden or regular purple ones
1 Teaspoon oil
1/2 Teaspoon cumin seeds
A pinch of asafoetida/hing
1 Hot green chilli, minced
1 Teaspoon finely grated ginger
1/4 Teaspoon red chilli powder
A pinch of turmeric
Salt to taste
1/2 Teaspoon chaat masala, optional
1/4 Teaspoon garam masala
Squeeze of lemon juice
2 Tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
Wash, peel and shred the beets in a food processor or with a coarse grater. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet and add the cumin and asafoetida. Once the cumin sizzles and browns up, add the chilli and ginger. After a few seconds stir in the red chilli powder and turmeric. Slide the shredded beets into the pan and toss for a few seconds on high heat. Add salt and a splash of water, lower the heat, cover and cook until tender. Mix in the chaat masala and garam masala and switch off the heat. Add a squeeze of lemon and scatter the chopped peanuts all over before dishing them out.
We often serve Grated Golden Beets on their own as a warm salad and sometimes make them as a quick weekday side with rotis and dal. They’re pretty enough to be showcased atop triangles of earthy dark rye bread that we’ve lavished with cream cheese. We’d like to send them off to a zakuski (Russian for ‘an assortment of “little bites”) party being held over at Art and Lemons, for this month’s Monthly Mingle.