Mother Nature is brilliant – she stealthily tells us what foods to pair with what and when. Tomatoes and basil, the classic flavor marriage born in southern Italy: we don’t even think about it now, but the fact that they grow next to each other in the hot Mediterranean sun tells us. Similarly, dill, potatoes and salmon from the cooler northwestern region of Europe taste great together too, and by no coincidence they hail from the same region.
We can also be guided by the seasons. Asparagus and Morels are quintessential spring and pair beautifully. Apples and cabbage peak in flavor in the fall and elevate each other’s flavors. I hadn’t really thought about it previously, but Brussels sprouts and tomatoes just don’t work together. Let's suffice it to say, I have the pictures to prove it.
When unsure about pairing flavors together, if I don’t reference The Flavor Bible, I think about the seasons and the origins.
The other night, I was cooking dinner and thinking about how to cook the beets I had in the fridge. I had more clementines and recalled that orange and beets are a classic combination. But as I thought further, I was confounded… beets grow in the summer: I know this about beets because I see them at the Farmers’ markets and also grew them myself. But citrus are native to the winter. How could this be? This flavor pairing couldn’t be a classic if Mother Nature hadn’t intended it, could it?
Interestingly, the root vegetables like beets and potatoes tend to be considered winter vegetables even though they are grown in the summer and fall. They get this reputation because they store well through the colder months in the *root* cellar. When I think about it like this, it’s not surprising that the root vegetables also pair well with the winter flavors.
See, she had it figured out all along… Mother Nature is brilliant!
Beet and Clementine Salad
2 clementines or 1 large orange
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
torn mint to garnish
1. Wash beets. Toss them with 1 tbs. olive oil and put them in a 375F oven (in a pan) for 30 minutes or until a knife easily pierces through.
2. Meanwhile, peel the clementines and cut into sections. See Helen's blog for a great photo montage of how to do it.
3. When beets are tender, let them cool slightly. Peel them with a peeler or paring knife. Cut them into wedges, and place them in a heat proof bowl.
4. Heat remaining olive oil in a small skillet. Add cumin and coriander and cook over medium heat until fragrant. Pour over beets and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Add the clementines. Garnish with mint just before serving.