BEETS!!! Commonly known as the garden beet, this firm, round root vegetable has leafy green tops, which are also edible and highly nutritious. The most common color is garnet red but there are many varieties ranging in color from deep red to white. Love them or hate them, they seem to evoke strong reactions. I have had a love affair with them since childhood and enjoy them prepared many ways. My most favorite preparation, however, is roasting as it concentrates their sweetness and brings out a nuttiness that I find really appealing. Another reason to roast is that it is really easy and you don’t have to peel them ahead of time which is quite a time saver. In fact, cooking beets with the skin on preserves much of the nutritional value and prevents color loss. The skins can be removed easily after they are cooked by simply rubbing them off with your fingers (they will stain a bit) or a paper towel after they are cool enough to handle.
When choosing beets, check for firmness and smooth skins. Small or medium are usually more tender than the larger ones. If the greens are attached (which is always preferrable as it is a good indicator of freshness and they are delicious) they should be crisp and bright. They resemble spinach or swiss chard in taste and hold their place along side of other leafy greens for their valued nutrition . Because the greens leach moisture from the bulb, they should be removed as soon as you get them home and stored separately, much like radish greens.
Once the beets are roasted, they can be used in a variety of preparations. A simple drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of flaked sea salt transforms them into a savory side dish. They are also a popular choice for pickling. I love to pair them with vinaigrette and a creamy goat cheese for a piquant salad. This combination has fabulous eye-appeal and serves as a wonderful balance for grilled or roasted meats as a side or stands alone for a light lunch.
Here’s the deal!
1 bunch fresh beets with greens, preferably small to medium size (or as many as needed to feed your group)
Sea salt (or salt of choice)
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove greens from the beets and trim off the stems. Wash thoroughly and dry. Reserve.
- Scrub the beets gently to remove any dirt.
- Place beets on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Using your hands, rub the oil around so as to coat each beet thoroughly.
- Salt and pepper.
- Place in preheated oven and roast for 30 – 60 minutes depending on the size. Stir halfway through and rotate pan to ensure even cooking.
- Check after 30 minutes and continue cooking until the beets are fork tender. Five minutes or so before beets are done, add the greens, stirring them to coat with the oil. Cook for a few minutes until wilted.
- Remove from oven and allow bulbs to cool until they can be handled. Using your fingers or a paper towel gently rub off the skins. Cut off the root and stem ends and use in your favorite recipe.
Roasted Beet Salad
One recipe of roasted beets as above with the greens. Bulbs sliced 1/8-1/4 inch thick (I use a mandolin for uniform slices, but a sharp knife will do)
Favorite vinaigrette, enough to lightly coat beets and greens. I use red wine vinegar, a bit of Dijon to taste, salt, and a good quality extra-virgin olive oil (2-3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar or other acid like lemon juice). I place ingredients in a jar, shake vigorously and taste, adjusting oil and/or acid and salt until balance is achieved to suit my palate.
Soft goat cheese, crumbled, 4 oz. or so depending on amount of beets. If you do not like goat cheese, feta or a blue cheese would make a good substitute.
Toasted walnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds, chopped, for garnish, optional.
- Place beet slices on a platter and drizzle with dressing to lightly coat.
- Place beet greens on the side or mix them with and turn them with tongs to coat, adding more dressing if needed.
- Sprinkle crumbled goat cheese over the top.
- Garnish with nuts, if using.
You would pay big bucks for this salad in your favorite restaurant or bistro so if it is to your liking, make it at home, save a lot of money and look like a rock star!
Beets are available year round but are in season now along with many other root vegetables. Try roasting a mixture such as parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squashes. Make a lot and serve them as a side one night and puree them for a roasted vegetable soup the next. It’s a twofer! Let’s hear how you like to use them.