I used to hate beets. I refused to eat them because they smelled like grass to me. I still think they smell like grass, but I eat them without abandon. Especially when they are going down the hatch with a nice crumble of Roquefort or Gorgonzola.
So why the change? This past year in culinary school we cooked a lot of beets (I make that sound like ‘last summer at band camp’ don’t I?). And you see, chefs at the Culinary Institute don’t care if you don’t care for a particular edible. You cook, and if you’re not allergic, you taste.
To my surprise, they didn’t taste like the grass of which they smell (I was bound to be wrong, as usual). They’re sweet, earthy and pleasingly textural, charming little root vegetables. Gold, candy-striped, the classic red. Roasted and boiled, hot and cold, and while you’re at it sauté the beet greens for a garnish (which is actually really healthy if you go easy on the butter).
Even beets themselves, specifically the common dark red variety, are action-packed with vitamin A, potassium, calcium and dietary fiber. And if you eat them at my house, salads with beets are action-packed with blue-veined, creamy crumbles. I might not hate beets anymore, but I’m not stupid.
- 2 large red beets
- ¼ cup hazelnuts, blanched, lightly toasted
- 3 cups arugula, washed
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- ½ cup Roquefort, Gorgonzola, or other blue cheese, crumbled
- 3 Tbs red wine or sherry vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Cover beets with water by three inches in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Simmer until beets are tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Cool, and remove skin with a peeler or edge of a spoon. Slice as much of the beets as possible into ¼-inch rounds, then small dice the rest.
- In a 300° F oven, toast hazelnuts until light brown and fragrant, stirring once. Cool, and rough chop.
- Combine arugula with thyme leaves and season with salt and black pepper. Whisk together vinegar and olive oil, and dress salad to taste. Serve with beets, blue cheese and hazelnuts.