By Sierra French Myerson
You know how hearing a certain song can transport you back in time? Instantly, you’re in the 7th grade, or on a family vacation, or having you’re first kiss all over again. We produce our own life’s soundtracks through our experiences. Food has that same power of time travel for me. A particular taste, smell, or texture can immediately conjure a memory and send me somewhere else. The pop of a warm, freshly picked cherry tomato and I’m 5 years old in the backyard with my mom and our vegetable garden. The smell of freshly caught grilled fish happily delivers me to Spain in the summer I travelled there after 9th grade. The tender chew of octopus summons the first time I had sushi (other than a cucumber roll) with my dad.
Beets play a funny role in my food-memory bank. I grew up in “the healthy house”. There were no pizza-bagels for me at snack-time. A bowl of frozen organic fruit was the after-school treat at my house. We had the best back yard in town, and everyone still wanted to have play-dates at Caroline’s or Ali’s. It didn’t matter that one’s mom was strict or that the other’s brothers would rough-house us, they had epic junk food pantries.
My mom was clearly ahead of her time in the food shopping department (and in other of life’s departments, as well), and it ultimately, thankfully, rubbed off on me. We shopped at the only two health food stores in L.A. back then. Now, there is one on every other block. Organic was a no-brainer to her before it was really accessible. Now, organic shaming seems to be common practice among new parents. If only I could time warp young Caroline and Ali to my house for a play-date in 2016, they would be jealous of my pantry and all of it’s healthy and en vogue snacks. Sesame crackers. Check. Veggie chips. Yep. Almond butter. Second shelf.
So, needless to say, beets were around while I was growing up. And, their earthy flavor instantaneously takes me back to being 4 years old at The Source restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. At the time, The Source was probably the only organic vegetarian restaurant in town. So, naturally, it was pretty much the only restaurant at which we ate out. I can vividly remember sitting in a booster seat eating tofu and sipping on freshly squeezed watermelon juice (my version of candy). My mom would always order an enormous salad and feed me some of her veggies. But, the raw julienned beets really stuck to my taste buds. They tasted like sweet dirt, and I enjoyed it.
It was during one of these dinners at The Source, while I nibbled beets and gulped down my watermelon juice, that my mom went into labor with my sister. The excitement of the actual arrival of my new sibling was beyond thrilling. I can recall it like it was yesterday. Therefore, delightedly, beets always blast me with a quick burst of joy, as I remember getting to finally meet my new forever friend and sister.
*Side note: Thank goodness I wasn’t eating a gross processed soggy bagel-pizza when one of the greatest moments of my life occurred.
Roasted Beets with Burrata and Blood Orange Vinaigrette
What you’ll need:
1 bunch of beets (about 5), well scrubbed (the smaller beets are sweeter)
1 blood orange, juiced
red wine vinegar
6-8 basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup of olive oil
1-2 balls of fresh burrata
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wrap 2-3 beets, depending on size, in foil. Place on a baking sheet. Roast beets for 45 mins to 1 hours, until they are soft to the touch. Cool beets in foil packets until they are cool to the touch, and peel off the skins.
While the beets are roasting, make the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk together the blood orange juice, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Quarter the beets, or cut in eighths, depending on size. Toss beets in the vinaigrette. Let them marinate until you are ready to plate and serve. They’ll just continue to soak up the dressing, so no rush.
Center the burrata on your platter. Spoon the beets around it. Drizzle olive oil over the burrata. Sprinkle basil over the dish. Finish with a pinch of sea salt.