Give Beets A Chance

12 Dec

Let’s talk about beets.

They look, and feel, like rocks.

Empire State Building, early winter

And then you cook them. Then the beets lose their rockness and become yielding and silky and aromatic and sweet.

Beets are, of course, essential in making the soup of the moment, Christmas Borscht, but they also lend themselves to an incredibly diverse array of dishes from around the world.

There’s beet pasta, pickled red beet eggs, roasted beets, and squorscht, and that’s just from my site. When you look around the interweb you’ll find beets with horseradish and capers, summer borscht and grated beets with tahini, Pille’s pesto & beetroot appreciation society, red beet mash, celery root soup with pickled beets, beetroot latkes, bulgur risotto with beets, gluten-free beet focaccia, and yes, finally chocolate cake with beets.

Whew!

Union Square Sunset

Many claim to revile beets, which may be fair, especially if the only beet they’ve ever had came from a can, not the ground. All I am saying… Is give beets a chance!

One of the most classic ways to eat roasted beets is on a salad with blue/goat/feta cheese, and/or walnuts, and/or segments of citrus fruit. It crops up on nearly every menu in the city, but the problem is, the salad is rarely well executed. When I’m brave or bored enough with the other appetizer offerings to order the beet salad, I’m usually disappointed. The beets are watery, the cheese isn’t forceful enough, the walnuts aren’t toasted, the dressing is bland.

Last week when Isaac was preparing to hit the Dag Hammarskjold greenmarket I asked him to poke around and buy some beets. I was going to take things into my own hands. I roasted the beets and then concocted a perfectly silly, completely over-fussed with salad of epic proportions.

It’s like a garbage plate, but better for you.

Ann's Beet Salad

This salad is great, and it’s pretty and fancy enough to serve to company over the holidays. It’s perfectly seasonal and delicious, but I must warn you on one thing. The walnuts. Oh my god, the walnuts! I hate walnuts. Hate. But for some reason I felt they were absolutely essential to this recipe, and I was right.

But here’s the thing. Eat them all or get them out of your house fast because they are so addictive. I ended up bringing them to a friend who is a bit of a beer nerd. We figured they’d make an exceptional beer snack.

Spicy-Sweet Walnut Brittle

Beets suffer from bad P.R. They’re pigeonholed. Beets are for salads and borscht and pickles. But you and I? We know this isn’t true. So go on, show me your best beet recipe!

Leave a link in the comments. It can be yours or one you’ve found on a recipe site. This is our chance to spread the word. Give beets a chance!

Head below the jump for the recipe for Ann’s Beet Salad.

Ann’s Beet Salad

prep time: 1 hour ~ cooking time: a few hours

  • 1 Beet per person, scrubbed
  • Water
  • Radicchio, 1/2 head per person, washed and torn into ribbons
  • 1 Clementine per person, sectioned
  • stinky Blue Cheese (personally, I love the Danish stuff)
  • Walnut Brittle*
  • Dressing*

Heat your oven to 350°F. Place the beets in a dutch oven and add water so that it’s about 1/4 inch deep. Place aluminum foil over the top of the dutch oven and then place the lid on top (this ensures that the steam doesn’t escape). Roast for a few hours. You can tell that the beets are getting close to being done when you can smell them. Check them from time to time by poking them with a fork (be careful when you’re lifting the foil, no one likes to get burnt by hot steam). They beets are done when they easily fall off the fork without much encouragement.

Allow the beets to cool for at least 15 minutes. When they’re cool enough to handle, don a pair of latex or rubber gloves and rub them to remove the skin. Sometimes this is easy, some times it’s not. If you’re having trouble, feel free to use your nails and running water to help remove the skins. When clean, put the beets in the fridge to cool.

When cool cut into half moons.

Assemble the salad on individual plates. On each plate put a nice fluffy pile of torn radicchio. Arrange the beets and citrus sections on top of the radicchio. Sprinkle liberally with cheese, top with a piece of walnut brittle and a few loose walnuts, drizzle with dressing. Enjoy!

Spicy-Sweet Walnut Brittle

prep time: 2 minutes ~ cooking time: 7 minutes

  • Walnuts
  • Butter
  • Maple Syrup
  • Salt
  • Cayenne Pepper

In a small non-stick pan add a knob of butter over medium heat. Heat until foamy then add a handful of walnuts. Allow to toast in the butter about 1 minute until fragrant. Carefully add about 1 tbsp of high-quality maple syrup. Immediately season liberally with salt and cayenne pepper and toss, toss, toss until the maple syrup evaporates a bit and coats the walnuts. Carefully turn the nuts out onto a plate lined with parchment paper. Allow to cool. Break into bite sized pieces and bigger pieces to garnish the salad. Enjoy.

Nutty-Dilly Salad Dressing

prep time: almost none ~ cooking time: none

  • equal parts Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Toasted Walnut Oil
  • Lemon Juice
  • Sherry Vinegar
  • good Dijon-style Mustard
  • Dill
  • Salt & Pepper

To the oil add lemon juice and vinegar in a proportion that you find pleasing. Add a dollop of mustard a heavy pinch of dill and salt & pepper to taste. Blend well.

16 Responses to “Give Beets A Chance”

  1. Julie December 12, 2007 at 12:12 pm #

    OK, between you and Luisa and your beet postings, I’m thinking I should revisit beets. This salad looks so inviting — especially the walnut-brittle part, or maybe especially the cheese part. Alright, it all looks good, even the beets.

  2. Ann December 12, 2007 at 3:04 pm #

    Now I am thinking of your blog as “Tales of the Beet Queen.” :-)

  3. Dave December 12, 2007 at 3:44 pm #

    The walnut brittle is sublime with a good beer. I enjoyed it with a bottle of Ommegeddon which is strong enough to not be overpowered by the spice, and has a nice sharp citrus tang to cut through the sweetness.

  4. Christina December 12, 2007 at 7:36 pm #

    Oh beets beets, glorious beets. The more you eat, the pinker you pee.

    I love beets and can never get enough of them. I make a salad quite similar to this and could have it at least once a week and never get bored. Thanks for doing your part to spread the beet gospel. Oh, and I can’t wait to read about this year’s borscht-off.

    I’m holding out on posting beet recipes until my beets come in. Right now, their about the size of a quarter. Grow beets, grow, gosh darn it!

  5. Terry B December 13, 2007 at 1:27 am #

    Ann—I really try to like beets. If for no other reason than that my wife loves them. I have trouble getting past their earthiness—well, the fact that I can taste the dirt they were grown in.

  6. keane December 13, 2007 at 12:39 pm #

    I recently discovered beets, and they are amazing.

  7. Jennifer Hess December 13, 2007 at 1:42 pm #

    Mmmmm! I have to admit beets have been an acquired taste for me, but this salad looks just lovely, and I’m really eager to make a batch of borscht. :)

  8. Susan in Italy December 13, 2007 at 3:10 pm #

    I too admit to not being much of a fan. Beets are, however pretty delicious combined with ricotta and parmesan and stuffed into some ravioli. (Even though the filling looks like 1950’s dream whip and raspberry jello surprise)

  9. Lydia December 13, 2007 at 7:32 pm #

    My husband is a beet fanatic, and I love cold cooked beets in just about any kind of salad. Would love to grow some in my garden next summer.

  10. wildschwein December 14, 2007 at 1:06 am #

    That salad is sexy. I absolute love beetroot, and if blue cheese was a person I’d contemplate marriage.

  11. ann December 14, 2007 at 7:51 am #

    Julie — Oh, did Luisa and I forget to tell you it is a conspiracy? Hehe, sorry! We’ll be sure to tell you next time ;-)

    Ann — I’m cool with that ;-)

    Dave — Mmmm… Beer.

    Christina — You know, at first I thought you were joking, and uhm, I no longer think that…. Zany! I’d never noticed before. I can’t wait to see your beets! The borscht-off is planned for next weekend, I’ve got to ferry my folks around the city this weekend and I think the borscht-off deserves my full attention!

    TerryB — I can understand that!

    Keane — Yay!

    Jenn — I can’t wait to see the borscht you make! I bet it’ll be awesome.

    Susan — That sounds awesome. Now all I can think about are those raviolis!

    Lydia — Oh you should (grow beets that is)! It’s so Martha! You could have red ones and yellow ones and pink ones and stripey ones! That would be really cool.

    Wildschwein — I’ve been contemplating marrying blue cheese lately too! For some reason, it’s all I can think about. I crave it morning, noon and night. Is that weird?

  12. K December 19, 2007 at 5:28 pm #

    Hee! You gave a shout-out to the much maligned garbage plate! I lived off those rancid things for a while, and I still have fond memories of them. Are you from Rochester originally?

    Also? Beets = love. I agree that people who’ve only eaten canned beets are missing out big time, but that’s the case with pretty much any canned vegetable or fruit. If you can’t buy it fresh (or at least frozen), why buy it at all?

  13. wildschwein December 23, 2007 at 8:30 am #

    Anne >>I’ve been contemplating marrying blue cheese lately too! For some reason, it’s all I can think about. I crave it morning, noon and night. Is that weird?

    Not weird at all!!! When I was a kid I always screwed up my nose at blue cheese but it has definitely grown on me over the past few years and I’ve actually come to prefer it over most other cheeses. Its flavour is like the essence of cheese!! It’s great as a last minute meal idea.. a few crackers or some nice crusty bread, some jarred artichokes, sundried tomatoes, fresh tomato slices, kalamata olives, etc. Delish!!

    K >>Hee! You gave a shout-out to the much maligned garbage plate!

    Just a bit of shameless self promotion… we had a go at making a garbage plate at home and posted about it on our blog a while back :-) You can find it here: http://wildschwein.wordpress.com/2007/08/04/a-hearty-meal-in-hard-times-the-garbage-plate-homecooked/

    Lastly, Merry Christmas Ann!! Hope you have a fantastic day filled with delicious food!! :-)

  14. ann December 23, 2007 at 10:14 am #

    K — I’m not from up near there, but have spent some time in the hood. Who wouldn’t shout out the garbage plate if they had the chance!?

    Hi Wildschwein! Merry Christmas to you too! I hope it’s wonderful. Glad to know I’m not alone in my blue cheese obsessions :-)

  15. sue geisler December 28, 2007 at 5:43 am #

    I really like beets and, even more, the greens. My criteria for buying beets is that they have to have a good looking set of tops still attached.

    Beets and Asparagus are so good with Blue Cheese, this site was a nice “find”.

  16. ann December 28, 2007 at 10:16 am #

    Hi Sue — Thanks for the nice compliment! I love beet tops too. I’ve never tried asparagus with blue cheese. That’s a nice idea, thanks!

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