There were no tomatoes in January or February for most of my childhood. Not even in March. The supermarkets were mostly empty and eating in season was not another foodie trend but reality. In case you didn't get a chance to read the "About me" page, I was born in Romania sometime before 1989 when things were not so good. What was going on at that time? In 1981 the Communist leadership decided to pay off foreign debt which meant that most goods produced in Romania were exported and the revenues from such exports went to the payment of the foreign debt, leaving very little for domestic consumption. Hence the empty supermarkets. And long waiting lines when finally sugar or butter or skinny little chickens were delivered to one the stores. And people always carried their own bag in case such an event unexpectedly occurred, yet another current trend that was a necessity for us.
Without tomatoes from Mexico or California and empty gorcery store shelves, most people turned to the countryside and whatever grows there throughout the four seasons. Pickling and other methods of conservation were popular. Rows and rows of jam filled the shelves of our pantries while the basement stored bottles of homemade tomato juice and huge jars of pickled vegetables.
We also had provisions of apples, potatoes, onion, garlic and other vegetables that last throughout the winter. The fuchsia colored beet was another one. I like to compare it to the tomato because of its vibrant, enchanting color. However, unlike the tomato it stains and handling it might make you look suspicious....to the police. Rest assured, the stains wash off your hands fairly easily. Also, unlike tomatoes, beets are in season during the fall and winter while tomatoes are not which is why tomatoes don't taste so good in January. So you're not missing out on anything by not eating tomatoes in January. Just eat beets!
The way we typically eat beets in my family is grated and and mixed with lemon juice and freshly grated horseradish but I learned that you can also roast them which brings out a certain subtle sweetness.
3 large beets
lemon juice from half a large lemon or 1 small lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
About 1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese
About 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
Pre-heat the oven to 400℉. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and place them on a baking sheet. Roast the beets in the oven for about 1 hour depending on the size. They are done when you can easily pierce them with a fork. Let cool. While the beets cool, place the walnuts on a baking sheet and place them in the oven that has been preheated at 400℉. Toast them for about 5-10 minutes until they are slightly brown.
Using a knife, peel the beets. Cut the beets in cubes. In a bowl, mix the lemon juice and olive oil, add the beets. Place the beets dressed up with olive oil lemon juice in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with gorgonzola cheese and walnuts.
If you don't have the time to roast beets, you may be able to find them already cooked at the supermarket. My local Whole Foods store has them and I like to keep them in my fridge and use as a snack or as an addition to a salad. Just a little shortcut can make a big difference when you are in a rush. My favorite ones are vinegar infused so if you happen to use those for this recipe, just leave the lemon juice out.
Here is a picture of the beets I roasted. They are large and roasting them took about 1.5 hours.