Sometimes you fall head over heels for a book. It’s such a great feeling. Over the years, there have been a few… The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominque Beauby, My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. And others of course, too many to list. My latest addition is the luscious food book, A Taste of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World, by Susan Musgrave. It’s the source of the rather fabulously titled, Beets Margaret Atwood.
For most of the past year, I had A Taste of Haida Gwaii on my bedside table because it’s as much a book of stories, as it is a book about food and recipes. Heartbreakingly honest, laugh-out-loud funny and packed with photographs of this wonderful remote bit of Canada, as well as fabulous food shots – this book is such a gem.
I’ve written about A Taste of Haida Gwaii before. Last year, I read sections of it out loud to my mother. Her favourite was the chapter about Welsh Griddle Cakes.
More recently, I made Susan Musgrave’s, Beets Margaret Atwood, which the WordPress spell checker keeps suggesting that I change to Beats Margaret Atwood.
For the full story on this dish, see my column in the Kingston Whig-Standard. This is an interesting recipe, a take on the classic French Potato Dauphinoise, using very thinly sliced beets. The dish will take on a hot pink hue while cooking but don’t worry, by the time it’s fully cooked, the cream will be absorbed into the beets and the dish will return to a more appetizing beet red colour.
This recipe is slightly adapted from A Taste of Haida Gwaii.
Beets Margaret Atwood
- 1 bunch of baby beets (about 1.5 lbs or 680 grams) scrubbed and peeled if necessary
- 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
- 1 scallion, finely diced
- 1/4 cup vegetarian (or chicken) stock
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup of grated Gruyère or Emmental cheese
- 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
- daubs of butter
Preheat oven to 375 deg F. (190 deg C)
Cut the prepared beets into very thin slices (about 1/8” or 3mm thick) using a sharp knife or mandoline. Layer the slices in a buttered gratin dish or 2-quart pyrex dish. Press the beets down with the back of a spoon to compress slightly.
In a heavy saucepan, bring the stock, heavy cream, garlic, salt and pepper to a simmer. Pour this mixture over the beets. The cream mixture should come to just below the top layer of beets. Place the gratin dish on a baking sheet.
Bake for 40-45 minutes. Test for doneness. If the beets are tender to the fork, top the dish with the cheese, panko and several daubs of butter. If the beets are still not quite tender, return to the oven for another 10 minutes or so, and then add the cheese, panko and butter. Once the topping is added, bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and nicely browned.