02 October 2013

beet sandwiches

One of the disadvantages of having a newborn who wants to eat constantly is that I don't really get to cook much. I'm limited to what I can make in a short time, and this is at the beginning of autumn, when the weather cools down and I suddenly get the urge to start baking bread and making soup to counteract the chill. Today, my time in the kitchen was spent making tea and sandwiches. It's good tea, and they were good sandwiches, but I find myself perusing the "food" tab on Pinterest rather avidly and wishing E. would let me set her down long enough during the day to mix up some pizza dough.

I did make reasonably interesting sandwiches, at least. We have beets that I picked up at the farmer's market last week, and a ham that we bought on the weekend so we'd have something to make sandwiches out of all week. Ham and beet sandwiches it was.

These aren't our beets, but taking pictures of produce when your child is demanding more food seems semi-irresponsible and it just stresses me out when she's upset and I'm far too sleep-deprived to want to add to my stress levels.
Using beets, or beetroot, on sandwiches is a relatively new concept for me. I ran across the idea at a bistro in downtown Vancouver over near the yarn shop Gina Brown's a couple years ago. I was part of the team organizing Yarn Harvest, our local yearly yarn crawl, and we were meeting with store owners to go over what was happening that year. We spent a lot of time driving around town, and stopped to get lunch at a small restaurant. I decided to fling caution to the wind and order the vegetarian sandwich (usually I don't go with the vegetarian sandwich options, because they often lack imagination. Who really wants only lettuce and cheese for lunch?). The sandwich came with grated beets. And it was good. I bought beets the next time I went grocery shopping and tried my own version.

That wasn't the first time I'd learned that the red vegetables I'd shunned as a child were actually quite tasty. The year before, on a class field trip to the UBC library (we linguists know how to have a good time), I'd discovered that beets are also good on pizza. A couple years before that, my roommate and I made borscht because we were curious. Both of these experiences were much tastier than my first encounter with beets, which was as pickled beets on my grandparents' Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner tables. Beets have an interesting flavour to start, and adding the tartness of pickling just made them less appealing to a kid who was not exactly picky, but who had yet to become an adventurous eater.

I still don't like pickled beets, but I'm not that excited about most pickled foods (home-made pickled daikon is an exception--it's fantastic toasted on baguette with melted cheese on top, though this is not what it was originally intended for). Fresh beets, or beets in soup, on the other hand, are much more interesting to me. Eaten raw, the root is crunchy but not difficult to chew, and has a dark, earthy taste with hints of sweetness. Cooked, it doesn't soften easily, so unlike potatoes or carrots, it retains some of that crunch. It may turn everything pink, but that's part of the fun. Unless you're wearing a white top while chopping it, of course.

Today's sandwiches were ham with slices of beet and sliced mushrooms. The bread was a little pink, and my fingertips are still slightly pink, but beets and ham go well together. Thesaltiness of the ham complements the sweetness of the beets, and the texture added to the sandwich with the beets is very pleasant. It might have been a little better with mustard, but we're out, so I used horseradish instead. I'm contemplating making mustard at some point this fall, once E. lets me set her down for more than five minutes before deciding to wake up. In the meantime, we've added it to the grocery list, so we'll try ham and beets with mustard tomorrow. Is it a lack of imagination on my part that I'm willing to eat the same thing several days in a row because I can make it in-between feedings?

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