roasted beet salad with avocado horseradish purée
I’ve been talking a lot about the dentist lately. Hard not to, when I spend so much time with the guy. Every week or two I go, open my mouth, and he files away. Each time I stare up into the bright light. There is a dead bug trapped in the bulb. How did it get there? Am I the only patient to notice it? Why does it feel oddly comforting that the bug is always there? This visit something in my peripheral vision snaps me back to attention. Some sort of short kerosene lamp and from it, a generous flame. I feel as trapped and paralyzed as the bug. He places some kind of material onto his file, holds it in the flame briefly, and tells me to open my mouth wider. Just another trip to the dentist.
So let’s change the subject, shall we? Vegetables.
My husband was telling me about a rather fascinating video he saw recently about why some people might love the taste of certain healthy greens while others find it awful. According to scientific research, genetics largely determine our taste.
Apparently, one chromosome from our father and one from our mother combine to determine how sensitive we are to the bitterness in certain foods. If both are non-taster genes, then the result would be a child who doesn’t taste the bitterness in many vegetables. If both are bitter tasters on the other hand, then the result would be a child who is very sensitive to bitterness. And what if one parent is a non-taster and the other is a bitter taster? According to the study, it would result in a medium bitter taster, and in this case it is possible to learn to like those more bitter vegetables.
So being a picky eater is in our genes! Of course, I don’t want this information to discourage you moms who try to get healthy greens into your kids! Don’t worry, evidently it is possible that over time, our sense of smell changes, which changes our sense of taste, no matter what genes we have. Which is why kids tend to be more picky eaters than adults. So if your youngster pushes their plate of broccoli that you’ve so lovingly prepared away and says “Blech!” …don’t take it too personally. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad cook.
As a kid I was not overly picky where vegetables were concerned. That probably had more to do with environment (Dad: “You’re not getting up from this table until you finish what’s on your plate.”) than genetics. There were certainly vegetables I hated. Like zucchini, which I eat constantly now. Or peas, which I would try to pile onto my lap discreetly, not taking into account how easily peas roll away …
But many more vegetables I loved. There are lots of greens I grew up eating in the Maritimes, and one particularly special to New Brunswickers, is fiddleheads. What I wouldn’t give for a steaming pile of fiddleheads right now… It was also a real treat to have steamed beat greens with a squirt of white vinegar. Yum!! And I loved root vegetables. Especially turnip. In fact, I much preferred turnip raw. When my mother was cooking with it she’d slice a chunk off for me to crunch on happily. I loved how peppery it tasted. Which is probably why I love the taste of horseradish so much.
Here in Ecuador, I cannot get fiddleheads. *heavy sigh* However, I can get root vegetables. And something I rarely saw as a kid, avocados, year round. So why not make a dish using both? I added some fried brussels sprout leaves for texture and brought some acidity with the lime zest. The colors were just beautiful and felt like a humble roasted vegetable dish dressed up and ready for a night on the town!
2 large beets, peeled and sliced into 12 wedges
1 small turnip, sliced into 8 wedges
1 large red onion, sliced into 8 wedges
1 tbs olive oil
sea salt and finely cracked black pepper
1 ripe avocado
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 tbs prepared horseradish
1 tbs thick natural yogurt
juice of half a lime
fine sea salt, extra
1/8 cup walnuts
zest of half a lime
1/2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tbs olive oil
1/8 cup brussels sprout leaves
Drizzle beets, turnip, and onion with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 205°C (400°F) for approximately one hour.
For the avocado purée, combine avocado, vegetable oil, horseradish, yogurt, and lime juice in a food processor and bzzz! away until smooth and creamy. Adjust quantities if needed and season with salt according to taste. Set aside.
Toast off the walnuts, either in the oven or pan toasted. Set aside and let cool.
In a small pot, add enough vegetable oil to come up to about two inches. I fry on a gas stove and never use a thermometer, so what I do is heat on low flame until small bubbles start to form along the bottom of the pot. I use any piece of vegetable (one of the peels of the turnip, for example) to test the oil. If it rises to the top of the oil quickly after you drop it in, it’s good to go. Fry all the leaves until floating and crispy. Transfer to paper towel to drain the oil and let cool.
Combine lime zest and red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Gradually add olive oil, whisking constantly and until fully integrated.
To serve, take a serving spoonful of the avocado purée and drag across the plate, forming a long well in the center. Do this on all four plates. Divide beet, turnip and onion wedges evenly among plates. Sprinkle the walnuts and brussels sprout leaves and drizzle a bit of the vinaigrette. Serve while the veggies are warm.
I found the dish to be totally delicious. Perhaps you will disagree. But that’s OK. I blame your genes.