Market Day: Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgonzola and Balsamic
July 31, 2016
The Winterfeldt Market is a circus of color and noise. On Saturday mornings, it’s filled with people shopping for fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and baked goods of every hue. There are buckets of olives and pastes made with roasted eggplant, arugula, paprika, garlic, or chives. There are barrels of blooming flowers bursting with pops of purple, yellow, and pink. Trucks sell swirls of fresh pasta and raviolis alongside plastic tubs of pesto and long glasses of olive oil. One stand sells grilled fish, skin charred over an open flame – another sells raclette, silky with pungent cheese and brightened with fresh parsley and red chili flakes.
The market is walking distance from my apartment, at the end of a route that feels accustomed to my feet. Wherever I live, I find myself tracing familiar routes for as long as I can, before my destination chooses my route for me. If I were a river, I’d carve canyons along these trusted paths. Fanning like a star from my apartment, there’s the road that leads to the train station and the road to the park where I do my morning run, scattering rabbits breeding like clichés. The road that leads to work snakes through back alleys, through a school playground where I have to dismount my bike and walk between the shouting, shifting kids, up and around a grungy park, over a stretch of cobbled street and unpaved road that spills out onto the main thoroughfare. And then there’s the road that leads everywhere else: Out the door, a right, a right, and a left to Hauptstraße – Main Street.
I pass the Baptist bookstore on the corner where they sometimes put out piles of free books. Dan Browns and romance novels, 90s teen fiction with faded purple covers and curly script. There’s a second-hand shop around the next corner, and I always glance in the big glass windows. The dress on the mannequin these last few days reminds me so strongly of the dress I wore to the 9th grade homecoming dance. Every time I pass by, I feel uneasy, like the short silk still makes me feel exposed, like there’s still a long gown memo I missed.
Life erupts at the corner of Hauptstraße. The traffic roars past and the bus groans along its own route, wheezing every time it opens its doors to spit passengers out. Here, there is shop after shop after shop – the little café selling homemade croissants for a song, the good chicken döner just setting up the day’s spit, the späti already advertising Berliner Pilsner for only a euro, the bakery, the sausage shop, the stores selling clothes and junk and knick-knacks for around the house.
Akazienstraße is calmer, a little more refined. The apartment buildings branching off the street are stately, with clean, curlicued facades and iron-wrought balconies full of flower pots and green breakfast nooks. The shops are fancier, too: boutiques and cafés with neatly arranged interiors. There’s Double Eye, a deserving line spilling out the door waiting for that good Portuguese galão to sip on the way to market.
On Saturday morning, the tables outside are filling up, the sidewalk is full of dogs parading humans along on leashes and in warm weather, it seems everyone has found an ice cream cone to eat along the way. The most dedicated market-goers are already walking back home, baskets sprouting green carrot tops and bunches of dill.
I pass all the shops I’ve been inside before and the same ones I never manage to sneak my way into – only ever longing past the big glass windows swished with pretty dresses and suede boots.
Akazienstraße changes its name after the big church, but its feeling stays the same. There’s the shop selling only apples, where you may look at the wares and sample regional heirloom slices, but you may not pick your own apples or even run your finger over their blushing skins. There are any number of lovely wine shops flanking the street, and it’s hard not to buy all the pretty green or blackish bottles slashed with crisp labels and line them up on the kitchen counter like a row of elegant friends.
The street crashes into the market. Suddenly, it opens up on the square, white tents peeking through the greenery. You creep into an artery, swimming along on the crush of people strolling past. Here it all is: the aromatherapy, the woolen slippers and leather gloves, olive-wood cutting boards and Georgian wine, organic farmers and bushels of chanterelles trucked over the Polish border in the gray dawn.
I snake through the market. I have my route here, too. Today, I want beets still shimmering with dirt and sprouting purplish leaves. I want some blue-veined gorgonzola and hard-necked garlic and a flush bunch of parsley for my market day lunch.
Is the road home always shorter than the road out? Once that homeward bound feeling hits, there’s no more meandering or stopping to gaze. You set your feet on course and let them carry you back the way you came, downriver now, swifter and in anticipation of your own floors and walls and the quiet silence of your space.
At home, I throw all the windows open. The hum of overhead airplanes and the drone of music from other people’s open windows meld into a comfortable background soundtrack. I hear birds twittering and the clank of silverware. The building door opens and closes with a creaky thwack.
My beets are roasting in the oven, the greens tossed in a skillet with the garlic and olive oil. There’s a tiny batch of balsamic reducing on the stove.
It’s a quiet day and a quiet lunch. Soon, there will be activity and noise. Good noise, the sound of my family here to visit, the sound of our conversations and laughter. I’ll show them the streets that have become another home, point out my haunts and favorite neighborhood nooks; I’ll walk them along my riverbanks, carving deeper into the grooves.
Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgonzola and Balsamic
This recipe was adapted from an interesting, though perhaps not particularly compellingly-written book about getting the most health benefits from fruits and vegetables: Jo Robinson’s Eating on the Wild Side. One fun fact I’ll share is this – Garlic, as we all know, has superpowers. These are unlocked when garlic is crushed, smashed, cut, etc. Unfortunately, when garlic is cooked, heat stops the magic from happening, and we don’t get to reap the benefits. If, however, you crush, smash, cut, etc. your garlic and let it rest for ten minutes, the garlic retains all its health benefits no matter how you proceed to cook it next. I thought that was pretty neat. This salad serves 2.
5 medium-small beets, with greens attached
2 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for the beets
1 red onion, chopped
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup crumbled mild gorgonzola
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 425º F (220º C).
Trim the beets, leaving behind an inch of stem. Set the greens aside. Scrub the beets and wrap each one separately in aluminum foil (or two together if they are small). Drizzle each packet with a bit of olive oil and salt before closing. Roast until the beets are tender when speared with a fork, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
While the beets are cooking, mince the garlic and set aside. As they are often gritty, rinse the greens thoroughly, shake off the excess water, and tear the leaves off the ribs in rough pieces. Discard the ribs. Dry the greens and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a skillet over high heat, then add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes until softened. Add garlic and beet greens and toss until coated with oil. Cook for about 5 minutes until wilted, but still bright green.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the balsamic vinegar to a slow boil and cook until the vinegar has reduced to about half its original volume, about 5 minutes.
Once the beets have cooled, trim the root and stem ends and slip off the skins. Slice the beets into rounds and distribute between two plates. Top with sautéed greens and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Finish with crumbled gorgonzola and grated zest. This salad can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled.