Monday, July 02, 2007


Our garden gets a little more ambitious every year.

Last summer, we had three cherry tomato plants, a bunch of cucumbers, hot peppers that weren't even close to being hot, lots of herbs, and a crop of long beans that yielded a serving for Margy and me about three times.

This time around, we've got one grape tomato and one beefsteak tomato plant, more cukes, jalapeños that might actually hold a little heat (if they'd just mature already), oodles of pole beans (green, yellow, and purple), arugula and mixed baby greens (wonderful but now succumbing to the burgeoning summer sizzle), and again many different herbs.

And beets. Some of which are now ready. The leaves and stalks have been gorgeous -- that deep red-purple color that there's no point in calling anything else but beet red. Once the bulbs poked out of the soil and showed themselves as relatively plump and ready to be eaten, it was time to go.

Of course, one of these plants (we have three) offers only a few small beets, so that's all I had to work with today. Using a recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, I cubed the beets and roasted them with olive oil and salt and pepper until they just began to caramelize. As I removed them from the oven, I popped a piece in my mouth. Sweet and earthy. Ready to become a salad. I dressed them with oil, vinegar, and fennel seeds and let them steep awhile.

Margy shaved some farmers'-market fennel ("What do you do with the tops?" said the woman who sold me the fennel, just as I was wondering myself) on the mandoline, almost shaving her palm along with it. What is it about that device? Me, I basically refuse to touch it, even though I'd love to put it to use. It terrifies me.

Bottom line: Beets plus fennel in three forms -- bulb, fronds, seeds -- equals deliciousness. Just be sure to eat a sweet salad like this along with something salty or sour, or else you'll think you've skipped dinner and gone right for (an admittedly very healthy) dessert.