Locomotives and Roasted Beets with Chiles, Ginger, Yogurt and Indian Spices

Eight months ago I didn't have a clue who Thomas the Tank Engine was. Well, that's not true.  We got a fabulous Thomas Starter Set when our first son was born, but we hadn't used it yet.  I didn't realize the mania surrounding the little blue engine who adorns hundreds of books and DVD covers.  Now I hear about Thomas all the time.  Our eldest son (Otis) is Thomas obsessed.  
That's not necessarily a bad thing.  He has a few Thomas-themed items and I think they have had a very positive impact on his daily activities.  Otis can assemble semi-sophisticated train tracks with a quickness and he's learned many letters of the alphabet thanks, in part, to one of his Thomas books.  We decided it was time to go to the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden so he could see some real engines. We saw all sorts of engines that were part of the state's railroad history, spanning many decades.  There were also tender cars, box cars, gondola cars and hopper cars.  I think you get the picture...While Otis spent his first year and a half of life riding the NYC subway, since our move West he hasn't been on any trains.  You can imagine then, how unbelievably excited he was to learn that we were going to be riding the Georgetown Loop Railroad in historic Georgetown, Colorado during Big Horn Sheep Festival.  The train ride, which was just over an hour in duration, took us up the rail line that used to transport silver from the local mining towns.  We were given a good deal of historic information on the ride, but Otis was oblivious.  He couldn't stop staring out the window and waiting for the sound of the train whistle to blow.  "Chew-chewy," he would say. Here are a few shots taken from the window of the train car... (and yes, that is Otis's favorite Thomas book in hand.) As for Baby Theodore?  He slept through the whole ride.  

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And now for roasted beets...
I've often salivated while reading Melissa Clark's recipes in The New York Times.  I've heard her talk on the radio about food, cooking and baking.  She's my kinda girl.  She cooks food that really appeals to me and I like what she has to say about time spent in the kitchen.  Other people like what she has to say too-- she has published several books and has a regular feature (A Good Appetite) in the paper.  How is it then that I've never actually made any of her dishes?  I'm not sure.
Anyway, this is the first recipe of hers that I've actually made.  It has some unusual combinations and I like the texture of the pomegranates here, which are 'optional' and really shouldn't be. I thought the use of jalapeno was nice too.  Usually I tend to pair beets with flavors that are more mild.  It's nice to change things up a bit! 
One caveat:  it took me A LOT longer than 30 minutes to roast the beets.  It was more like 1 hour.  And the beets really need to be quite tender for this dish to be successful.   
This vibrant, colorful, spicy little beet salad is a great addition to any meal.  
Roasted Beets With Chiles, Ginger, Yogurt and Indian Spices (Courtesy of Melissa Clark, New York Times)
Yields 2-3 servings
1 3/4 pounds beets; a mix of red, yellow and chiogga is nice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
Pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 jalapeรฑo pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon lime juice, more to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Pomegranate seeds for garnish, optional.
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel the beets and cut into 1-inch chunks. Toss with the oil and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, (took me over an hour) tossing occasionally, then sprinkle with mustard seeds, coriander and cumin and roast until the beets are tender, about 15 minutes more.
2. While the beets roast, prepare the dressing: using the side of a knife or mortar and pestle, mash the garlic with a pinch of salt until it forms a paste. Place yogurt in a bowl; whisk in garlic paste, jalapeรฑo, ginger, 1/4 teaspoon salt and lime juice. Whisk in the cilantro.
3. Scrape the warm beets into a large bowl. Stir in the dressing and pomegranate seeds, if using. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.