Tag Archives: Dirt

Recipe: Dirt Candy

11 Oct

So, beets. Let me start by saying I like beets. I like them, a lot. Okay? I know people get weird squeamish food prejudices about vegetables because they’ve been subjected to subdued canned versions growing up or in school cafeterias, but I even like canned beets. I think they’re great.

Raw beets, however, are not as tasty to me. I like them baked wrapped in foil or pickled, but I’m not as keen on them even when sliced attractively thin on a plate mixed in with carrots. I could probably grow accustomed to that musty-earth flavor, but I’m too busy eating them other ways to try.

Enter, dirt candy. This recipe for curing root vegetables (and butternut squash) in sugar caught my eye and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Curing the vegetables in this way allows them to retain the crispness of texture while softening the raw bite of their flavor through curing. The sugar pulls all the moisture out of the vegetable, shrinking it and transforming the flavor. It came to mind immediately when I noticed golden beets at the Farmer’s Market.

In the interest of eating the whole plant and thereby saving money, I first cooked the beet greens.

Golden beet greens are less photogenic than regular beet greens because they do not have the shockingly ruby red veins contrasting against the dark green leaves. I used this recipe, which was delicious but I don’t have a photo. Cooked greens are not photogenic.

I had a few beets to work with and before I made candy I sliced some up and made beet chips using the same method I used for the butternut squash. I loved them, though not as much as I loved the squash chips. Their earthiness translated almost to a smokiness, which was nice.

(That dip you see next to them was a mixture of sour cream, Greek yogurt, and dill. And I had rather more than what is pictured on the plate.)

While the chips were baking and the greens were bubbling I started on the candy. The instructions are as follows: 1. dice beets, 2. cover with a pile of sugar, 3. wait. Aside from some light stirring that happens over the course of a couple days,that’s it. You cover it, set it in the fridge, and let nature do its thing.

Nature doesn’t mess around. After the first half hour I drained off this much liquid already.

I know what you are thinking: that looks like Mountain Dew at best and a very sick person’s urine sample at worst. That’s 100% sugary golden beet juice.  I thought about reducing to a syrup and adding to Greek yogurt. Twitter was not enthusiastic about this idea.

After I took the photo, of course, I poured the liquid back over the beets and stashed them in the fridge and waited, stirring intermittently, for two days. But you don’t have to wait that long! Thanks to the magic of the internet I can show you the result…

The liquid darkened. The beet pieces had shrunk but remained firm and they glowed as if from within. They were good. They were very good.

They tasted like beets but without that full raw bite. And the concentration of sugars made them sweet, like, well, candy. As I ate them I thought, wow. I bet these would be even better roasted. Totally unnecessary of course. Gilding the lily, really. But once I had the idea I couldn’t let go of it, so onto an oiled baking tray they went. Ten minutes later…

They were gorgeous. The exterior sugars caramelized and scorched in places while beets became a mixture of chewy in some places and crisp in others. I could have eaten a popcorn bag full. Add some sea salt and it was better than candy. They would make an amazing garnish.

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Shushing, Etc

1 Feb

The life of a librarian isn’t always glamorous. It’s not all slowly taking off glasses and shaking my hair free of its conservative bun. There’s more to it than inspiring a love of reading and helping students work on projects. There’s also the thrill and excitement of fielding call after motherfucking call of people looking for the IT guy. Though no fault of the IT guy’s own (he’s super awesome), people think that because we work in the same room, I must have his schedule memorized and beyond that, I must actually tell him what to do, prioritizing tasks based on how loudly a person just yelled at me. Keep in mind, we have different offices and unique phone extensions. But I can’t make it to 9 am without fielding six or seven calls asking if Carlos is there and wondering if I could perhaps fix their computer issue for them. Sorry. I can’t. I’m kept too busy with wearing sensible shoes and shushing.

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Isobel is kind of OCD when it comes to dirt. Rather, she really enjoys finding any speck of dirt on the floor that she can and immediately screams EW YUCKY DIRT DIRTY DIRT EW EW MESSY! Although I still find it amusing the 100th time as I did the first time, the fact that I have a toddler constantly on the lookout for dirt on the floors isn’t helping me feel accomplished. Between the kid and the cat and the leaves tracked in and out every time someone comes and goes… let’s just say there’s no shortage of crumbs or pieces of grass or shredded bits of couch for her to flip out over. I appreciate the sentiment, honey. But we’re just going to have to leave some of that dirt there for now.

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Isobel is not fond of changing into her pajamas so I made a Big Deal one night of telling her she was going to wear her Owl Jammies. She has a marked affection for owls for some reason, and one set of her pajamas features a litle applique owl. Now every time it’s time to change into pajamas she starts shouting OWL JAMMIES! OOOOOWL! JAAAAMIES! HOOOOO! HOOOOO! Which is great, except that we have the one pair so she’s rewareded for her efforts about every third day. Basically I feel this proves something integral about parenting: sometimes the solutions you find lead to new, and even more inventive problems. Parenting is evolution at its most exhausting.

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I’ve had several million coworkers have asked me when we’re going to have another baby. As if they were waiting for us to just reach into the ether and pull one out. I respond by tossing out a vague, “We’ll see,” or “eventually” because I suspect people would not be happy if I told them that I’m waiting until I can train Isobel to feed our cats without breaking things or dumping cat food all over the floor. You see when I was pregnant with Isobel, my sister moved in with us. When I became too huge to bend down or squat, it was her job to feed the cats. I realized that until I have a replacement cat feeder that doesn’t leave for business trips (sorry, husband) I can’t think of having another. Isobel trains every day, though, and is making great strides in her technique. I just hope my vintage milk-glass bowls survive.