Smile Politely

Revisiting beets

My mother never cooked separately for us. Liver, channel catfish, blue cheese dressing — if my parents were eating it, we were eating it, too. However, the one food I could not share my parents’ love for was pickled beets. As an adult, I have grown to tolerate them, but I still do not love them. Roasted beets, however, are another matter.

That I can love beets cooked one way and not another is not uncommon as I have learned from working with the members of Prairieland CSA. Whether it is texture, tang, or another aspect of a food, if you try it prepared several different ways, you are bound to find one that appeals to you.

I knew that it was just a matter of finding the right recipes for beets. I loved beet greens, which isn’t surprising since beets are in the same family as Swiss chard, which I also loved. But alas, the roots.

Like squash, tomatoes, and potatoes, there also are several varieties of beets. So, if you find you don’t like one, you can easily try another. There are classic ruby reds, golden beets, red and white striped chioggia beets, and entirely white beets. Thankfully, it’s possible to find most of these varieties at the local farmers markets. If you stock up on them at the end of the season, you can store them for several months in your fridge. Do not wash them. Simply trim the leaf stems to a half inch and place the beet roots in a paper bag in your vegetable crisper. Storing them in plastic cuts their shelf life by half or more. If you missed out on beets at the farmers market, most groceries with a respectable produce section will carry red if not golden beets throughout the winter months. And since they are seasonal, they will be a good value for your produce dollar.

Treating beets like potatoes by roasting them in the oven or on a grill (in warmer weather) concentrates their sugars. To roast them, scrub off any dirt and trim the stems to one half inch. Rub them with a little olive or canola oil and place them in a heavy pan like a cast iron skillet. Roast them at 350 to 400 degrees for 45 minutes or more depending upon the beets’ size. They will soften like a baked potato and you will be able to easily insert a fork in them when they are done.

By leaving the peel on during cooking, you preserve more of the beets’ color and vitamins. Once cooled, you can easily peel and dice them for winter salads and pasta dishes. Tossing them with some walnuts and goat cheese over local winter spinach makes a great salad. Or try a traditional Russian beet salad. For a quick pasta dinner, you can cook a half pound of fettucine and drain it. Rinse out the pasta pan and heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add a thinly sliced clove of garlic and a half teaspoon of crushed rosemary leaves. When the garlic becomes fragrant, quickly add pasta, stir, and season with salt and pepper. At the last minute, toss in a couple of diced beets. Serve with a little parmesan or crumbled goat cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

If you think you might like beets pickled, you can try this recipe from PCSA shareholder Bill Brown who says that his kids not only eat them but like them prepared this way. Too bad my mother didn’t have Bill’s recipe.

More Articles