The days between Labor Day Weekend and Columbus Day are the finest on the East End. The weather is usually pretty good, unless there is a hurricane. The traffic is usually light unless corn maze traffic brings the North Road to a standstill. And for one glorious month, sweet corn and beets are both still plentiful in farm stands across the area.
I understand that people who do not like beets live among us. I strive to be tolerant of them. I do not force them to eat beets.
In early times, the medicinal properties of the root were more important than its eating qualities and it was used to treat a range of ailments including fevers, constipation and skin problems. Recent research suggests that the nitrate in beets can reduce blood pressure.
People who eat beets regularly know that they have a profound visual effect in the digestive system. Maybe this accounts for the botanical name of the beet: Beta vulgaris.
Many is the panic-stricken beet-eater who has made an appointment with his urologist, forgetting that a plate of red beets eaten the day before is the culprit. This recipe calls for golden beets, which taste just as good as red beets, but have a less lurid effect on human digestion.
If you love beets, or at least have an open mind, this salad is for you. The beets are firm and sweet, the corn adds a nutty flavor, the cilantro an herbal note and the vinegar a fruity bite. Really, what’s not to love?
A critical ingredient in this dish is the vinegar. Raspberry vinegar is available at the I.G.A., but if you are feeling adventurous, I recommend Vines and Branches, (477 Main Street, in Greenport) for their mind-boggling selection of fruit vinegars and olive oils. The peach white balsamic is good in this recipe, or any green salad. And if it helps convert someone you love to a beet-eater, it’s worth the trip.
Early fall beet salad
Serves 4 as a side dish.
1 hour cooking time, 30 minutes prep time.
6 golden beets, the size of lemons.
1 ear of sweet corn
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
2 teaspoons fruity vinegar, either white balsamic raspberry, peach.
A pinch of sea salt or fleur de sel
Three grinds of black pepper.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Scrub the beets and remove the small thin root at one end, and the rough stem at the other end, but do not peel. Roast the beets for 40 to 50 minutes, depending on their size. When a fork goes in easily, but they are still firm, they’re done. Let them cool until they can be handled, and using your thumbs, under running water, rub the skins off the roasted beets. It will slip off easily.
While the beets are cooling, shuck the corn, and steam it 5 to 10 minutes.
Cut the peeled beets into 2-inch chunks, and toss them with the olive oil.
Cut the kernels off the corncob and add to the beets.
Wash and mince the cilantro and add it to the salad, along with the vinegar. Taste for seasoning, and add the salt and pepper.