Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Eat more beets

From whence this back flab and these love handles? I thought we were supposed to lose weight in the summertime.

But the summer is over, I'm about to turn 27, and I'm fatter than ever. Well, probably not fat by American standards, but heavier than appropriate for my frame. I think I'm even starting to grow jowls.

Time to stop making this and that, and stick to just vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. In particular, I must stop baking so much. Even when I bake for the sole purpose of gift-giving, I end up eating the raw dough equivalent of about 12 cookies. I also need to stop buying lunch, so that's adios to tacos con chivo and empanadas from NoPe's many fine dining establishments. And I really need to cut back on the alcohol, or at least modify my habits. By the way, did you know a frozen margarita contains roughly 700 calories? Vodka martinis from here on out, hold the vermouth and olive. Better yet, I'll just have ice water and get bored after 30 minutes at the bar. What fun my 27th year is going to be.

I can seek both consolation and a smaller waist in the crunchy deliciousness of good salads, like this one I made recently. Partially inspired by a recipe in Gourmet's September issue, it contains beets, which took me all of 27 years to learn to like. The beet was just about the only vegetable I disliked, and wrongfully so. I mean, it's a cheap root vegetable with some edible greens attached! It's like we were made for each other! In this salad the beets are chopped into cute little matchsticks, making the transition to beetlove a lot easier than it might be if you tried to boil up a bunch and eat them in one sitting. It's similar to dating: you think the guy's ill-mannered and unattractive at first -- and let's not even talk about his sweating problem and tendency to overuse "whatnot" -- but slowly, surely, you will cave, and come to appreciate that he's actually good for you and has a nice dark pinkish-purple interior. I get a little crazier with every passing year. Happy birthday to me!

Recipe: Beginner's Beet and Apple Salad

Makes 6 side dish servings. Inspired by Gourmet, whose recipe is just beets, parsley, and goat cheese. No goat cheese in my version, and it's fine without. But I still wanted it to be a fairly substantial salad, so I added some greens and an apple, which is also chopped into matchsticks like the beets. This salad is really good, really good for you, and really crunchy! To make it more filling, consider adding walnuts, sunflower seeds, or almonds. Also, unlike most dressed salads, this one actually tastes better the next day. Oh, and if you have just gotten a manicure or you are having tea with the Queen tomorrow, don't make it -- or wear gloves if you do. Beet juice stains like whoa.

2 small beets, peeled and chopped into matchstick-size pieces, plus their greens
juice of half an orange
1 apple, chopped into match-stick size pieces (squeeze a bit of lemon juice onto these -- it will keep them from browning right away)
1 quarter of a medium onion, thinly sliced
1 C loosely packed, chopped fresh parsley (I think some mint in here would also be good)
juice of one lemon (or a bit less if you want to lemonize the apple)
1/2 lb salad greens (arugula, spinach, frisee, or whatever you want)
a big drizzle of olive oil
fresh ground pepper

In a large bowl, stir the orange juice into the beets, then add the apple, onion, parsley, and lemon juice. Add the salad greens and a big drizzle of olive oil and toss everything together. Finish with some pepper.

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