In France, the year's end is commemorated with celebrations that encourage submerging both the good and bad of the 365 days gone in an onslaught of bubbles and oysters. It's a great way to see the end of the past year, but often renders the beginning of the following year a bit rough. To avoid starting your new year with regrets and a headache avoid the primary causes of both which can often be attributed to sulfite-laden, sweetened champagnes.
I had never really eaten beets before moving to France, where they are a ubiquitous menu item in school cafeterias.
My eagerness to experiment with beets therefore obliged my French husband to overcome his childhood distaste for betteraves as I discovered their diversity and deliciousness.
At Paris markets you will find beets sold both cooked (i.e. boiled for hours until tender) or raw. When I stopped by Olivier Couroyer's stand at the Marché Monge they were selling two types of cooked beets, the traditional round variety and another parsnip shaped variety (red crapaudine?) that I had never seen before.
When I asked the vendor what the difference was between the two types, he explained that the parsnip-shaped beet had a sweeter taste and was good for using in salads.
Buying beets pre-cooked saves you the hours of boiling them yourselves (and removes some of the risk of dying your hands and clothes beet red as you handle their tenacious tints).
Having said that, uncooked beets have their advantages. Once scrubbed and washed, the raw root vegetable can be cut into big cubes, brushed with olive oil, lightly salted, and roasted on high heat for a hearty winter side dish.
What: Betteraves (Beets)
When: January 18, 2013
Where: Marché Monge 75005, Olivier Couroyer's stand
How: Boiled beets make for a super easy salad that can be whipped up and stored away for a healthy, detox-diet approved lunch option.
Cut your beets into bite-sized cubes and toss with an olive oil based vinaigrette. You can add whatever you want to spice up your salad. I like to add feta or chèvre as well as sesame seeds or pine nuts. Add a touch of green by throwing in some seasonal pimpernel or watercress and give the salad crunch by including fresh radicchio - all of which are readily available in the markets this season.
I first met independent farmer Marc Mascetti almost two years ago when I wrote about Marché Monge, where Marc is the only local producer. The situation seems the same at Marché Port Royal, where Marc sets up his stand on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. I went to visit Marché Port Royal with Kristen of The Kale Project because she had a lead on some kale being sold there. Turns out it was the energetic and enthusiastic Mascetti who was selling the kale, along with other homegrown goods.
Among his produce, the bright purple blotched turnips stood out to me. Realizing I've never bought navets,or turnips, in my life, I asked Marc what one does with this root vegetable and the answer was rather simple- Marc grabbed a knife, cut open the navet and offered me a slice. Turns out all you have to do with a turnip is eat it, "with the apèro" Marc suggested with a smile.
What: Navet (Turnip)
When: November 6, 2012
Where: Marché Port Royal, 75005
Who: Marc Mascetti, whose farm is located 34 km South of Paris
How: You can enjoy turnips raw, as Marc advises, or prepare them in a mash, gratin, or stir fry.
The New York Times article Giving Turnips a Second Look provides great recipes for this "under-appreciated and often overlooked" vegetable.