january, you can be so bleak. the cold is a sharp rouse in the morning. sleep stirred, i can feel the bite of a windchill beckoning for a quick reform. you’re awake now. it’s dismal, yes. the palette outside is muted. bob ross may be the only one smiling right now, a landscape sheer with ice and outfitted in a comfortable layer of snow. our hills seemingly honor and welcome the wintry adjustment, the ponderosa pines elevating into the most austere of circumstances. and while subconsciously i find a myriad of excuses to make tracks in the snow, it’s just the biting cold that tempts my somber. our afternoon mailman recently trumpeted that if one is cold “put some clothes on, you’re American!” – an exclamation that i’m still questioning the intended integrity of.
winter, you’re ok, just occasionally lonely. and the suspected root of marked madness (hint, hint mailman).
but this isn’t without respite, citrus season is bearing her fruit (literally). jewels in colors that seem to wash my fever away into the perpetual rhythm of falling and melting snow. i may celebrate this oasis more than once in the coming weeks because it’s one thing worth celebrating in this obnoxiously bruised world. satsuma mandarins, come to me. meyer lemons, grapefruits, pomelos, tangelos, tangerines, (hell, avocado abundance) – hear ye you optimistic beacons. snub our deadened nerves with your bright acidic wash and revive. amputate the ignorant parts of us we foster subconsciously and replace the scars with scintillating stars.
when i saw the mandarins i snatched them up. no excuses, just a fluid motion fueled by the heart (my life story, prod me sometime). i maybe even juggled them momentarily for a consumer circus show in the produce section (orchestrated only by frozen grocery cart wheels scraping the tile). my expression is often priceless when i happen upon something i relate to fate or another hippie principal. no exception for the mandarins.
but the first thing i wanted to do was exploit them under a sweltering oven element. where was the first caress? what mad scientist did consume me? i split a few and laid them out, face down on a sheet pan, each prior dabbed with a glisten of oil. i let them roast until their juice imprinted swollen ink silhouettes beneath them. charred orange flesh to my delight and with this i felt emotional clarity. and while i really love this practice, it just wouldn’t do for my plans. no, i needed a clean embrace. i needed a date before such savage intimacy.
wanna know my date food? it’s beets. if it’s valentines day, it’s beets. if i’m being trite, it’s still beets. they possess an earthy candor that explicitly remedies the soul of any weight. they’re beautiful, they’re sweet, they’re meaty, they bleed.
do any residual bleakness away by roasting a bunch or two of some smaller-rounded roots until their blood leavens your heart. serve them, quartered, on a large plate tossed with mint leaves tucked into their fuchsia and crimson crevices. lastly, spoon a very bright and tangy mandarin citronette over their heads – it’s certainly the pause we need, the oasis that’s available, and the regalia that will endow our bones with warmth.
- 2 lbs small beets (an assortment of varieties could work well here, although I used red alone)
- 6 tbl olive oil, divided
- salt and pepper
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 mandarins
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbl fresh mint leaves, shredded
- preheat oven to 350 degrees. prepare tin foil to wrap around each beet. before enclosing add to each a touch of olive oil (2 tablespoons altogether) and disperse the leaves of the thyme sprigs. roast the beets on a large sheet pan until tender, and easily pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. cool slightly and rub gently to remove skins. quarter beets into wedges and place them on a large serving plate.
- in a medium bowl juice the mandarins. whisk in the dijon mustard, remaining olive oil, as well salt and pepper to taste. pour over the beets and toss to coat. garnish beets with mint.