Roasted golden beet, carrot & cashew sauce (with broccoli, garlic scapes, & tamari)

Roasted golden beet, carrot and cashew sauce

Roasted golden beet, carrot and cashew sauce

I used the word “keen” the other day, and it struck me that it’s a very Ordinary word. Of course I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and of course I looked it up in the OED. The word has foggy and uncertain origins, and I think this mystery adds to its appeal. It’s had quite a few meanings over the years, and I like almost all of them. Most of them relate to an intensity of sensation or emotion. (Except, of course, in America in this century, when it’s meant something mild and harmless like “swell” or “nice.” Sigh.) In the earliest examples, which I can’t make sense of, even though I studied Old English twice, it meant wise, learned or clever, and then it drifted into brave bold and daring, which edged into fierce and savage, or cruel, harsh and insolent. Something of this fierceness and sharpness remained, and keen continued its career to mean anything piercing, pungent, intense, even stinging. Cold, touch, taste, sound, light, hunger, even love, all of these could be keen or keenly felt. Language could be keen, as well, in which case it was sharp, intense, even bitter…slicing the flesh like sarcasm. All of our senses can be keen–eyesight, smell, taste, which means they’re penetrating, acute and highly sensitive. And we can be keen, or feel things keenly, we can be “Eager, ardent, fervid; full of, or manifesting, intense desire, interest, excitement, etc. Also, of desire, feeling, etc.: Intense.” And we can be keen on someone or something, which means that we have a crush-like fascination with them or it. Of course, keen has another meaning as well, as noun and verb, it describes the singing of a wailing song for the dead, but even this sad meaning is wild and passionate and beautiful. “But Claire,” I hear you ask, “That’s all very well, but what does all of this have to do with The Ordinary?” “Well,” (I respond) “I’m glad you ask!” As it happens, I have an agenda, an Ordinary agenda. And the Ordinary agenda is about engaging keenly in all of the moments of your life…not just the big ones that everybody takes photos of, but the smaller ones, the quotidian day-to-day moments that pass by easily unnoticed. And perhaps this is the time to admit that The Ordinary is not really a food blog, (Shocking, I know!) except insofar as food is part of our daily lives, a necessity for daily life, but also a wonderful opportunity to experiment and be creative. And keenly flavored food tastes better when you’re keen-set for your dinner. And keenly-written books with sharp, clever, keen language read better when you have a keen interest in them. And keenly-played music is keenly felt by people who listen with keen ears. And the keen wild green of summer is only here for a short time before the keen-cold winter months return, so don’t wish it away!

Broccoli and garlic scapes with golden beet, cashew & carrot sauce.

Broccoli and garlic scapes with golden beet, cashew & carrot sauce.

This sauce uses golden beets and carrots from the farm. I grated them, toasted them, and pureed them with cashews, ginger, cardamom, cumin, coriander and lime. It has a sweet creaminess, but it’s vegan. We ate it with broccoli sauteed with garlic scapes, tamari and honey, which was a nice contrast of flavor and texture. But the boys also dipped raw cucumber in, and it would be good over rice, or with any roasted vegetables, or as a sort of curry sauce. Very versatile.

Here’s The Viceroys with Slogan on the Wall. We have an album called Nice Up the Dance, and every time I listen to it I have a new favorite. This has been going on for over a decade. Today, I have a keen regard for this song.

2-3 small golden beets
4 or 5 smallish carrots
1 – 2 T olive oil
3/4 cup roasted unsalted cashews
1/2 t each cardamom, cumin, coriander and ginger
juice of half a lime (or to taste)
small handful fresh basil leaves
small handful fresh cilantro leaves
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper

Peel and grate the beets and carrots. A food processor takes care of the grating very quickly, or you can do it by hand. Spread in a thin layer on a small baking sheet. Add enough olive oil to coat everything lightly. Toast in a toaster oven or roast at 425 in a regular oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are starting to brown on the edges. Stir from time to time to ensure even cooking. The golden beets seem to turn a little green when you roast them!

In a food processor, grind the cashews. Add the grated roasted carrots and beets, and all of the spices, and process until quite smooth. Add the lime juice and enough water to make the mixture very smooth and just as thin as you like it. I think I added about 1 1/2 cups water, but start with less and work your way up.

Add about 1/2 t salt and lots of pepper and taste to adjust seasoning.

Add the basil leaves and cilantro and process just until chopped and mixed in–flecks of green are pretty.


1 largish bunch of broccoli, florets mostly, cut into long thin pieces.

olive oil
2 garlic scapes, woody ends trimmed, minced
3 scallions, white parts mostly, minced
1 t. grated or mashed fresh ginger, or a dash of powdered
red pepper flakes to taste
1 T. tamari
1 T. honey

Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic scapes, scallions, ginger, and red pepper flakes, when the garlic scapes start to brown, after a few minutes, add the honey and tamari. It will get thick and syrupy pretty quickly. Add about a cup of water, less if you don’t want it to be too brothy. Let it cook for a minute to reduce slightly, and then add the broccoli. Cover the pan and steam for a few minutes until the broccoli is bright green, cooked through but still crisp. Remove the lid and simmer for a minute or two to reduce the sauce further, but don’t cook too long, because you don’t want mushy broccoli.


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