Boiled Beets with mustard
Aliter betas elixas: Ex sinapi oleo modico et aceto bene inferuntur.
Another recipe for boiled beets: they are served nicely in a sauce of mustard, a little oil, and vinegar. (Grocock and Grainger, 2006)
Swiss chard leaves OR beet leaves OR beet roots.
¼ cup of organic Dijon mustard
1 spash of oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
I treated the two greens like spinach- just a very quick dip in the boiling water. I didn’t want them to get too limp or overcooked. The beet was boiled for about half an hour (according to the Joy of Cooking, beets should be boiled for 20-30 minutes).
The sauce was a largeish glop of mustard, a small splash of oil and a larger splash of vinegar, slowly brought to a simmer. This mustard is organic Dijon. The ingredients match up to Apicius’ instruction for making mustard, with the exception of an addition of cloves. I chose not to go with yellow mustard because all the organic yellow mustards contained turmeric.
The question of what, really, does betas mean is a complicted one. Giacosa translates it as beet roots, but the mordern red beet is a 16th century development. The Brothwells and Andrew Dalby both think that what is now called Swiss Chard is what the Romans called beta. The beet was developed from Swiss chard, and both have the same scientific name.
There is a reference in Catullus 67 that refers to a man’s genitals as beta, which does imply the root, but Apicius often lists betas among the greens in his recipes. I was not able to find any Swiss Chard root, so the root portion of this experiment is a modern beet root.
The mustard could use a little more vinegar. I think the taste of the swiss chard works best with the flavor of the mustard sauce. The beet greens don’t have much taste, and the beet root doesn’t really mesh well with the mustard. I would go with the swiss chard in the future.
Brothwell, Dan and Patricia Brothwell. Food in Antiquity ISBN 0801857406
Giacosa Ilaria Gozzini. A Taste of Ancient Rome ISBN: 0226290328
Grocock, Christopher and Sally Grainger Apicius: A Critical Edition with an Introduction and English Translation IBSN: 1903018137