I imagine that not many people, say, younger than 50 have ever heard of the Broadway musical, Bells Are Ringing. The exceptions to this supposition, and I know this is a cliche by now, are all those kids that went to theater camp for the summer. They are always depicted enthusiastically singing show tunes non-stop on the bus ride to camp, their idea of heaven.
It is a shame if you are "younger than springtime," because you probably would have never heard of Judy Holliday (along with Sydney Chaplin [be still my heart]), who starred in the original cast of Bells Are Ringing. Judy Holiday, a comedic treasure, appeared in many classic movies as well. The best of which in my opinion is Born Yesterday. When you are surfing Netflix for your next fix, choose this movie. It is a gem!
One of the songs in Bells are Ringing as sung by Judy Holliday goes like this:
I'm going back
Where I can be me,
To the Bonjour Tristesse Brassiere Company.
And while I'm sittin' there, I hope that I find out
Just what Ella Peterson is all about,
In that Shangri-La of lacy lingeree.
(A little modeling on the side.)
At the Bonjour Tristesse Brassiere Company.
(Send me my mail there!)
To the Bonjour Tristesse Company.Kelli O'Hara singing "I'm Going Back" - Encores! Bells Are Ringing 2010
So what does this all have to do with food and Cooking the Kitchen? Well, the part about "I'm going back where I can be me." Ever since the shut down for the covid-19 pandemic, I have been feeling somewhat divorced from food and cooking as I had known it. Like Ella, the main character in Bells are Ringing, "I want to go back where I can be me." And that means reconnecting to the old me's relationship to food, because I am tired of "larder cooking."
We all have lists of things we miss from before times. Shopping at a market is one of the many things I miss. Now that I feel safer venturing out while arming myself with a mask, I decided it was time to stop ordering produce online. It was time to step back into the markets.
I started with baby steps. One weekend I walked to Grand Army Plaza and experienced what it was like to go to the Saturday Farmers' Market again. Of course it was not the same and I had to learn how to navigate this after times market. Before times always felt like a big neighborhood party. One would run into neighbors and chat, shake the hand of a local candidate running for election, stop and listen to the musicians, see a puppeteer entertaining a group of children, sign a petition, recycle your clothes or food scraps, or buy a taco at the taco truck because it never pays to food shop when hungry.
My recent Saturday visit started with leaving the house early and then getting on line in order to enter the market. As shoppers left, the line moved forward, until it was my turn. I experienced a sudden sense of freedom, until I realized that at each booth, there were more lines and procedures for where to stand and where to pay. I was no longer allowed to touch any of the produce. We shoppers stood apart from the stand, and asked for what we wanted from the friendly worker behind the produce laden tables which were roped off from the buyers. I realized that I needed to just decide exactly which booths I wanted to shop, and be quick about it to reduce my exposure. No more wandering about, taking the whole market in and flitting from stand to stand, picking out my own yellow peaches or ripe melon, or heirloom tomatoes.
My next baby step was returning to the Park Slope food-coop. The coop has designated shopping hours for the coop's seniors on Thursdays. Being a senior myself, that was the day I chose to shop. The outside edge of the sidewalk leading to the coop is marked to show 6 foot spacing. Chairs on which a senior shopper may sit while waiting on line, are kindly provided. One of the workers came outside and announced the rules of how to navigate the coop once inside. Hand sanitizer is at the check-in, and each shopper gets a Chlorox type wipe with which to wipe down the handle of one's shopping cart. There is a plan for which aisle to start with, and in which order to navigate the remaining aisles, as well as how to exit to get on line to check out. It both felt like the coop I knew, and did not. But I did get to touch the produce and pick out what I wanted, and that was a pleasure I had missed.
My last baby step was to go to a farmers' market that is run on Sundays, at 5th Avenue and about 4th Street in Park Slope. The ambiance of this market differs from that of Grand Army. The booths are set up along each side of a dead end kind of a street. There is a more narrow path for walking down the center of the street among the booths, which could easily create a bottle-neck if the market is crowded. There is no line to enter the market. However, the booths are set up as at Grand Army, where you stand back and request the items you would like to purchase.
In each case, I bought whatever looked good, whatever I had missed, and whatever struck my fancy in the moment. My newly purchased ingredients became my cooking palette. Once home, I could consult my cook books and internet recipes, or not.
I originally thought I would celebrate my renewed food-shopping freedom by posting a recipe that would totally wow you. But instead of a recipe that would be the equivalent of the Macy's fireworks on the 4th of July, I am posting one that is more like the ping of a meditation bell. Quiet and small, but with possibilities that expand out like a ripple in a pond of water.
So here is a recipe for what I decided upon, Mast-o-Laboo, or Persian Beet Yogurt. We have been experiencing a run of 90 degree days here in Brooklyn. In our "summer in the city [Joe Cocker video here]," it is really too hot to cook. In this case, I kept the air-conditioner running in the background to mitigate the heat of the oven while my beets roasted. After that one step, this is definitely an easy peasy recipe for you to enjoy this summer.
What is great about Persian Beet Yogurt is that it is (to borrow a phrase from "Gypsy") "very versatile." There is so much you can do with it to enhance or create a meal. You can use it as a dip for munching veggies, or as a salad dressing in these salad days of "summer in the city [Lovin' Spoonful version here]." You might even give some crackers a schmear.
I decided to cook some millet, and use it as a base for a sort of "buddha bowl." I cut up some raw green beans and added them to the millet in my bowl. I then topped it with a good portion of Mast-o-Laboo, with a basil leaf coyly serving as a garnish. For my second helping I added some pistachios to the mix. You may see how the possibilities of building a meal with Persian Beet Yogurt, are endless. If you want a variation on this recipe, try cooking the kitchen's recipe for beet, yogurt, and lemon relish, where your beets will be cut into quarter-moon like wedges.
As always, I hope you will try this recipe, and enjoy!
Mast-o-Laboo, Persian Beet Yogurt
A versatile yogurt yogurt sauce that could be used as a dip, a salad dressing, or as a schmear on a cracker or flatbread. The possibilities are endless.
- 3 to 4 medium red or golden beets, trimmed
- 1-½ cups plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp finely chopped frech mint
- Optional: 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon
- 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 to 2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- Optional: Nigella (black cumin) seeds for garnish
Roast and peel the beets. Allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Rinse and clean the beets and trim tops and ends.
Place the beets in a baking dish in a single layer and fill the pan with ¼ inch water - just enough to create steam in the pan without simmering the beets. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the beets and cover the dish tightly with foil. Roast for an hour, or until completely tender when pierced with a paring knife.
Let the beets cool just enough so you can handle them, and then peel by rubbing with a paper towel. The skins will slip right off.
Mast-o-Labvoo, Persian Beet Yogurt
Coarsely grate the roased beets and stir into the yogurt.
Add the mint, tarragon, if using, olive oil, salt, and 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar. Stir and taste. Adjust salt and acid as needed.
Chill until serving. If desired, garnish with nigella seeds before serving.
Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.