I'm looking forward to marrying two root vegetables this fall: beets and sweet potatoes.
When I was young I hated canned beets. They were a staple at school lunches, on my Mom’s dinner table, and even at Grandma’s House (my then beloved haven). I would often forgo the entire meal feigning some unnamed illness just to skip the beets! But since learning what garden-fresh beets taste like, something has changed. I've fallen in love with them. They're now my favorite vegetable. Pull them up, shake off the dirt, and throw them in your harvest basket along with some sweet potatoes, carrots, onions (and any other seasonal root vegetables) and you're in for a treat.
Beets have a long history. The greens were initially utilized, and the actual root ignored, until 1815, when Napoleon ordered peasant farmers to plant 79,000 acres of beets during a British trade blockade which severely limited France's access to sugar. In fact, at that time sugar had all but disappeared from European shelves. Then two French scientists discovered how to make bread with beet sugar, plopped this bread down on Napoleon’s table, and it was a hit!
Sugar, once a luxury of the wealthy, was made available to all households through the addition of beet sugar. (And along with this mass introduction came a sugar addiction that has spanned centuries!)
Beet's partner in crime is another root vegetable, the sweet potato. (And fun fact: The sweet potato's origin is an ocean away from that of the European beet; specifically in Peru, where remnants have been found dating back to 8,000 B.C.E!) Unlike beets, I have always loved sweet potatoes—from my Mom’s Thanksgiving candied "yams," to her baked (whole) sweet potatoes with a hint of cinnamon and butter.
Now, here's the fun part. I'm going to tell you how to combine sweet potatoes and beets to make my latest hit from the Gina Cucina kitchen: beet balls!
1 medium beet (peeled and shredded, approx 1 cup)
1 medium sweet potato (peeled and shredded, approx 1 cup)
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup Pamela’s GF pancake and baking mix
1 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup flax seed
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon pepper
Simply mix all ingredients in a bowl, roll into one-inch balls, place them on a greased cookie sheet (I use coconut oil), and bake at 375° for 20 minutes. And done.
I like to serve it with a roasted sage butternut squash sauce tossed with sautéed kale over pasta. (Go to ginacucina.com for the full recipe.) Or you can go the more traditional route and serve your beet balls with red sauce and spaghetti. You could even add them to a sandwich wrap with tahini on top. There are so many delicious options.