I grew up on an island small enough to travel from one side to the other, then back, in less than half a day. Everyone knows everyone, or knows of everyone. Family isn’t always blood-related. Anyone can be aunty, uncle, tutu… Two aunties I had known my entire life were Auntie Kei and Aunty Mitzi. They had known my grandparents – my mom’s parents – whom I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet. These two sisters lived together as long as I can remember. I remember going out to breakfast with my mom, the aunties, my sister, and brothers on many weekends. When we were little, the aunties went to doctor appointments with us, or grocery shopping, or on nearly any outing we invited them to.
I remember often receiving large brown bags filled with their homegrown star fruit and tangerines. They would rarely let us part ways without some kind of food gift – Japanese kanten they made (like jello, only made of agar agar instead of gelatin), or teriyaki nori (seaweed) I could never eat enough of, cookies, bags of honey boro, li hing mui… Sometimes what we left with were large amounts of homegrown beets and beet greens.
Even as a kid, I loved beets. My mom would steam the greens, then tightly roll them up and allow them to cool. She’d top the cold greens with mayonnaise, which I don’t think I would enjoy now so much (perhaps Vegenaise wouldn’t steer me away so quickly?). I actually much preferred the greens to the vibrant red beets. Last week when I was drinking a lot of raw beet juice, I realized how much I missed that flavor.
When I discovered two small beets in our refrigerator needing to be used up, I opted for the following warm salad, incorporating the greens as well. Beets are great for you – they’re high in many vitamins and nutrients including iron and folic acid, they’re low calorie and contain zero saturated fats, they help prevent heart disease and numerous cancers, AND! they’re energy-producing in your body… not to mention, they’re sweet and tasty. This salad is simple. I ate the whole thing for a rather filling brunch, but it can easily serve two or three people. The beets add sweetness, the goat cheese adds a creamy element that works well with the acidity of the lemon and vinegar, the greens balance the sweetness and the pine nuts add a bit of texture.