Beet It

Despite the jewel tones in the picture above, beets do not look like this upon being pulled from the soil. I think Mother Nature has a twisted sense of humor. Who else would produce a dark, ruddy tuber with alien-like tentacles (AKA roots) that most people, upon discovery, would leave in the ground rather than yank into the sunlight? Yet it takes only one slice with a sharp knife to unveil the splendor … shadowy crimson or vivid yellow the color of a school bus or the spectacularly vibrant concentric circles of fuchsia and white featured in the more elusive Chioggia, (currently available at local farmers markets). I just love them.

This wasn’t always the case. As has been a popular theme of late in my blog posts…I only recently came to enjoy vegetables like beets. In years past, I associated these vegetables with the soft, floppy, artificial-looking slices swimming in burgundy-tinted liquid in a salad bar. Or the canned monstrosities that I used to eat on this crazy diet I followed on and off for years. They were a mandatory ingredient in said diet and I recall opening the can, standing over the sink and gagging them down – all the while trying not to breathe or inhale so I wouldn’t have to taste them.

It took one bite of a properly roasted beet propped atop a bed of crisp greens with a smattering of goat cheese to change my mind. Prepared correctly, beets offer a sweet, earthy taste with a buttery texture that can be heightened with a little carmelization in the oven.

And beets are almost always mentioned on the “healthiest” food lists. Though high in sugar (according to Wikipedia, beet sugar accounts for 30% of the world’s sugar production) beets are very low in calories.  They also protect against heart disease and many cancers as well as increase antioxidants in the liver and help lower cholesterol levels.  

A few words of caution before you head into the kitchen – I would advise against wearing white.  If you’re working with the traditional dark red beets, a few slices and your kitchen may start to resemble a murder scene on steroids – electric magenta streaking the knife as the garish juice seeps into the cutting board. An easy fix – choose golden beets. They are just as sweet and tender as their flamboyant counterparts. If you decide to go with the red variety and the juice leaches into your hands – try rubbing in some lemon juice. And if it bleeds into a cutting board, a bit of water, a sprinkle of coarse salt and a little elbow grease will do away with most persisting magenta splotches. 

Please don’t let these minor culinary hurdles sway you from enjoying beets. The three following recipes show off the versatility of this delightfully nutritious and delicious vegetable. I hope you’ll try them.

◊     ◊     ◊     ◊     ◊     ◊    

Oven-Baked Beet Chips

I love Terra Chips – those root vegetables sliced thin and fried to crispy perfection. And the bright red beet chips are among my favorites. So I thought I’d try a homemade baked version – and they actually turned out to be satisfyingly crisp and savory.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large red beets (or any variety will do)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Peel the beets and cut as thinly as possible – trying for a uniform thickness. Toss in a bowl with olive oil and salt. Spread on baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake in oven 20 minutes. Turn all slices over and continue to bake another 20-25 minutes. Watch closely toward the end as the high sugar content makes these chips burn rather rapidly. Sprinkle with additional salt and serve immediately.

 

◊     ◊     ◊     ◊     ◊     ◊    

Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts & Goat Cheese

This salad can be made with any variety of lettuce, roasted nuts and cheese you prefer.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium beets (I like to use a variety of colors)
  • 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium lemon
  • 1 small clove of garlic or 1 teaspoon minced shallots
  • 1 bunch frisée lettuce
  • Goat, feta or blue cheese (approximately 2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the beets and cut into 1/4 – 1/2 inch pieces. In a large bowl, toss together the beets, 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 tablespoon vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Arrange beets in a single layer on baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake until tender, about 20 -30 minutes more. Set aside and let cool.

Drop oven temperature to 200 degrees. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.

Whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with juice and zest of the lemon and minced garlic or shallots (I prefer shallots as garlic can overwhelm the beets). Season with salt & pepper. Toss in beets and mix to coat. Place lettuce onto four plates and top with a quarter of the beets. Top with crumbled cheese (goat is my preference as blue can also overwhelm the beets) and roasted walnuts.

  ◊     ◊     ◊     ◊     ◊     ◊    

 Grilled Beet, Kale & Leek Quesadillas

If you’re fortunate enough to live in the Seattle area and have visited the Ballard Farmer’s Market – you have likely (hopefully) stumbled up on Patty Pan. Devra and her team cook up the most incredible veggie quesadillas every Sunday – handing them out to waiting crowds who scurry away to find a place to squat with these steaming wedges of grilled vegetables and melting cheese. She was kind enough to share some tips on how to reproduce them – and I think I’ve come up with a decent semblance. As Devra points out, they are best enjoyed outside in the crisp Seattle air amongst bustling crowds of fellow farmer’s market shoppers. That said, this recipe should do in a pinch if you’re not able to get to the market.

Note that I have included three different vegetables but you can add any variety you wish. Carrots, onions, broccoli, zucchini, etc. – all make wonderful additions. This recipe is approximate – I usually just toss in veggies and spices and cook until everything is nicely grilled. The amounts below should make three quesadillas. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 2 beets (any variety will do)
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2 leeks (or ½ an onion if leeks aren’t handy)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 6 whole wheat tortillas
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces Jack cheese – grated
  • Salsa and/or hot sauce

Instructions:

Peel beets and thinly slice. Wash kale and discard stems and ribs – tear or slice into 2-inch pieces. Wash leeks and slice into thin strips.

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil until almost smoking. Add the beets and sauté for about 3 minutes – turning after a minute or two. Once they start to soften, reduce the heat to medium high and add the leeks. Continue sautéing another 3 minutes. Sprinkle liberally with garlic salt, chili powder and cumin. Add the kale. Continue sautéing until vegetables are cooked through and kale is wilted.

In a separate pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Place 1/3 of the cheese in the center of one tortilla and place in pan. Warm until cheese begins to melt. Place a generous amount of the grilled vegetables over the cheese and top with a second tortilla. Spray the top tortilla with olive oil cooking spray and flip over. Continue to cook until the quesadilla is crisp and brown. Remove from pan, cut into wedges and serve with your favorite salsa.

If you like a bit of heat, add your favorite hot sauce or chili peppers before placing the second tortilla on top.

Bookmark and Share

Tags: , , , ,

2 Responses to “Beet It”

  1. Oh Wow… these look great! I love beats but tend to stick to canned because of the mess.. I have boiled fresh beats few times though… but these are recipes worth the mess… awesome! Thanks!

  2. I’ve invited the family to ours this xmas for a traditional dinner, so the roast is pretty central to that.. I found a lot of ideas at this roast recipe site, but cant seem to decide on one – there’s too many to choose from! It’s fun planning such a big family meal though!

Leave a Reply