Lately, I have been feeling very inspired to eat more raw foods, not because of the trendy raw foods diet which seems to have gotten increasingly popular over the last few years, but because of one of my recent guests, who has barely turned five. The little charmer has visited a few times over the last couple of years and is getting curiously more interested in food for her age. She wants to snap green beans without me asking her to, she opens the fridge to decide which vegetables should go into the pasta of the day, and asks for the honors of pressing the buttons on the blender. All that is fine, but when she asks me to make her a salad to go with the meal I shudder with a mild pleasant shock. The bigger shock is when she insists on checking every vegetable raw. "Broccoli tastes better when it is cooked than raw", she says conclusively as she chomps on a floret happily.
While I like salads in general, and there are many vegetables and fruits that I would happily eat in their raw state, there are also many others that I would rather have cooked. Beets, for example. As far back as I can remember, I have never disliked beets. Boiled beets, shredded, and served dressed as a koshimbir (a maharashtrian side salad, delicious but underrated) was a huge favorite and still is. When I was still young enough to be in middle school, an older cousin introduced me to lightly cooked beets - she would boil them for a few minutes, then peel them, slice into sticks, add some salt and pepper and have it as a crunchy snack. Later, a friend introduced roasted beets as a technique that preserves the nutrients more than boiling. All good. So naturally, when I read about this raw beets and carrot salad, I was intrigued enough to give it a try. The gorgeous picture with shades of red presented on black helped to add to the allure.
Shredded Chioggia Beets
Fortunately for me, beets are available here nearly all year around, in different colors and sizes, and with lots of greens attached to it. [I use the greens and stems too, but that is for another post.] When I was ready to make this raw beets salad I had chioggia beets in the fridge, which are usually pink in color outside, and when sliced crosswise, they reveal beautiful concentric circles of pink and white. Otherwise they are almost like regular beets. Right after I peeled and shredded one I had to check out how it tastes, raw, so I tentatively pinched a few strands and ate them. It was great! I added one shredded carrot, a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of orange juice, some chopped walnuts, salt and pepper and then let it sit for about half an hour. Refreshingly delicious. The earthiness of the beets and sweetness of carrots pairs together to create a combination that amazes with its simplicity. Less is more, indeed.
After tasting this salad I can relate to how this could have been Clotilde's go-to salad for several months. One can make infinite variations on it so it doesn't even have to get boring and taste the same every time. This salad is also wonderful in a sandwich made out of whole wheat pita bread or any other hearty bread, with a load of freshly made hummus. So far I have not tried adding either oil or garlic, both of which are in the original recipe, but here are some add-ins I have tried, with beets, carrots, salt, and a touch of something acidic being the constants.
* pinch of red Indian chili powder instead of black pepper
* chopped cilantro
* grated ginger
* chopped pistachios
* raita style, with yogurt and pinch of cumin powder and red chili powder.
All of these have been just as good, and I am sure I will continue to explore many more.
Beets, carrots, a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of orange juice, chopped walnuts, salt and pepper.