In elementary school, we had to participate in the science fair as an assignment for class. Science has never really been my strong suit; I was always better equipped to proofread a friend's book report than be someone's lab partner. I'm okay with it, mostly because I am an excellent proofreader, but I remember envying classmates science fair entries.
My best friend project was paper that had flecks of real flower petals in them. She did a demonstration for the class on how she made it. It was amazing. The purpose of her project was to show that our paper waste could be made into something new and special by recycling it. My project felt silly in comparison. I dyed muslin using different ingredients found in nature: tea leaves for yellow, coffee grounds for brown, red cabbage for purple, and beets for red. I had to boil my ingredients to extract the color so I couldn't do a live demonstration of the process. I missed my opportunity to relate it to current events, social issues, environmental concerns, or anything that would make the understanding of dyes important for my classmates to know about. I think my grade for that project was a B and I didn't win any awards in the fair.
Between the science fair project and finding them pickled on the salad bar at a local restaurant, that was the extent of my experience with beets until adulthood. Then they seemed to be everywhere--either finally it became chic to eat beets or I had only just starting noticing them. I had a beautifully composed beet salad at the Brown Dog Cafe with my friend Sharon, and I was reminded that I do like their flavor. They remind me of a savory carrot, with a deeper, earthier flavor that fills the mouth with each bite.
I wanted to make a few different dishes using the small bunch I picked up at the market. Roasting and pureeing the beets seemed the easiest route to do this, and it was incredibly easy. I trimmed the root and stem ends from the beets and gave them a good scrub. I then placed them in a baking dish with about a 1/4 cup of water and covered the dish with foil. I put them in a preheated 425 degree F oven for about an hour. Then I took the baking dish out of the oven, discarded the foil, and let the beets cool for about 20 minutes. With gloved hands--because I knew from my science fair days that beets will stain anything they touch--I peeled off their skins, roughly chopped the flesh, and placed them in a food processor. I pulsed the food processor until the beets were broken down into very small pieces but not quite down as far as, say, a sauce. I had about a cup and a half of puree from three medium sized beets. I let the mixture cool all the way down to room temperature and then stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator until I was ready to use it.
If you make this in advance as I did, you can keep the beet puree for up to a week in the refrigerator in a sealed container or freeze it for later use. I'll be back in a few days to show you what I did with it!