I normally think of myself as being very
comfortable in the kitchen.
I mean, I spend a lot of time there. I
can scramble eggs or chop onions or
whisk dressing — or all three — without
giving a lot of thought to it.
Heck, I even hang out in the kitchen at
On a recent Saturday, however, I found
myself feeling very incompetent indeed
in the kitchen of the Four Seasons
Resort Scottsdale, home to the wonderful
The resort has a program dubbed
“Saturday Night Live,” in which food
geeks like myself can strap on an apron
and play professional chef for a night
(and pay for the privilege of doing it).
I only spent a few hours in the kitchen,
but it was enough to come away impressed
with the effort, logistics and primo
ingredients that go into Acacia’s every
Not to mention the skill. I was assigned
a couple of no-brainer tasks: chopping
heirloom tomatoes to accompany a
Humboldt Fog goat cheese tart, and
peeling the roasted beets for an arugula
Have I peeled beets before? You bet.
Have I ever thought of myself as
particularly slow at doing it? Not
But slow is apparently what I am. As the
assured line-cooks bustled around me, I
fumbled with my beets. Executive chef
Simon Purvis would walk away for a
while, and when he came back, I would
still be peeling beets.
Still peeling beets.
Still peeling beets.
Oh well. I had a lot of fun, and I
finished the night with an excellent and
indulgent meal in the restaurant, a
milieu in which I felt absolutely at
But back to those beets. They were a
pleasant reminder that fall is at hand,
and with it, a lot of great harvest
Beets still seem to be a neglected
vegetable at home, even though the beet
and blue cheese (or goat cheese) salad
has become something of a restaurant
Yet they’re pretty easy to prepare, and
even easy to peel, provided you judge
your performance by amateur standards.
The trick is to roast rather than boil
them. Roasting concentrates their
natural sweetness (it also contains the
It’s simple to do. Scrub your beets
reasonably clean, trim off any greens,
and vent each beet in several places
with a fork.
Fold a sheet of aluminum foil around the
beets and set them on a baking pan.
Roast at 400 degrees until the beets are
easily pierced with a knife — from a
half-hour for very small beets to an
hour and a half for large ones. (It is
far, far better to overcook beets than
to undercook them.)
Let the beets cool. To peel, slice the
tops and ends off with a paring knife,
then use the same knife to cut away the
skin. It should come off pretty readily
(if not, well, quickly).
At Acacia, I used a mandoline to slice
the beets extremely thin. What a great
idea: it kept them from weighing down
the delicate salad.
If you want a beet to sink your teeth
into, slice each one into wedges as you
would an apple.
Warm beets tossed with olive oil, red
wine vinegar, salt and pepper make a
great side dish for chicken or pork.
Want a salad? Throw in any combination
of bitter greens, crumbled blue or goat
cheese, sliced roasted pears and/or
Delicious, and the best part is this:
Nobody’s timing you.