The key to enjoying these fibrous, earthy roots we call beets is in the cooking and seasoning. And perhaps most important, what else lands on the plate. If you haven't fallen in love with beets yet, I'm here to help!
Up until culinary school, I refused to eat beets because I thought they smelled like grass. I actually still think they smell like grass, but I eat them anyway. Especially as a beet salad with a
whole wedge nice helping of blue cheese. More on that down the page.
Learning to love beets
So why the change? As a first year student at the Culinary Institute, you cook a lot of beets. And 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 at the time, beets 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, and the classic red. Roasted or boiled, hot and cold, I find them a wonderful, delicious mouthful. While we're on the subject, sauté those beet greens for a eye-catching garnish (the greens are loaded with essential nutrients). Or better yet, grab this easy recipe for creamed greens in my post about how to cook kale.
Health benefits of beets
While beets are on average 3% sugar, the intensely-colored roots are action-packed with vitamin A, potassium, calcium and of course dietary fiber. Any variety of beet works within most popular low-carb diet protocols including Paleo, the GAPS diet and Whole30. Even Keto followers like the Husband here can partake in a small portion.
Three ways to cook beets
Cooking beets isn't rocket science, just a little bit of food science. The deeply pigmented vegetable takes well to a few different cooking methods. And it's truly about what works for you, and what you hope to get out of your beets.
Whichever method you choose, I gently advise cooking beets whole. Peeling and cutting raw, rock-solid beets is not edible times. Especially if you're working with a not-so-sharp knife, one wrong slip of the tip could mean a trip for stitches.
The basic way: Boiling
Boiling beets is the most common albeit it uninteresting way to cook them. It gets the job done and that's about it.
The average-sized beet takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to become tender. You'll find mentions of leaving part of the stem intact, to prevent the beets from bleeding their color into the water.
This practice may help slightly, but the betain pigments in beets are water-soluble and their skin is not impermeable. No attempt will stifle this process completely. Boiling also leaches vitamins and minerals out from any vegetable and into the water. Which is why I don't boil, but roast beets instead.
My favorite way: Roasting
I love roasting vegetables. The high, dry heat of an oven allows the sugars to caramelize (get a touch sweeter). The best way to roast them is to sprinkle trimmed beets with salt, perhaps a drizzle of oil and wrap them in foil. Time is generally the same as boiling. And the bigger the beet, the longer in the heat.
I've found a few drizzles of water in the foil helps the beets cook faster. Which brings us to the art steaming.
The healthiest way: Steaming
Truly, steaming any vegetable keeps all the flavor and nutrients locked into your food. I find this method to be the highest maintenance, since you need to keep an eye on the water level throughout cooking. But if you want to make the most nutritionally of your beet experience, steaming is the ticket.
The final prep step: peeling
The easiest time to peel beets is after they're cooked. I take a small spoon and run the edge from the stem area to the bottom. The pigment will stain your hands, so I like to cradle the beets in a paper towel as I peel (or wear disposable gloves).
Roasted beet salad with blue cheese
Now for the real reason we're here. Roasted beet arugula salad with blue cheese, toasted pine nuts and a mustard-sherry vinaigrette. Glam up your Wednesday night with a enticing salad that's quite simple to make.
If you love pecans or even candied walnuts, bring either on (I'm highly allergic, so I stick with almonds or pine nuts). The adorable John at Preppy Kitchen gives great tips for crafting candied walnuts on his blog. I'd gladly share the know-how, but I try to avoid kitchen ventures that can result in anaphylactic shock. ????
I can take or leave the nuts any day, but have a hard time eating a salad without cheese. And when it comes to roasted beets and blue cheese, in my opinion you can't do better. Perhaps goat cheese, but that's another tale for another day.
Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Point Reyes, or simply crumbles. Perhaps that was the ticket all along to loving beets. I might not hate beets anymore, but I'm not stupid.
Yours in beets,Print
Nutrient-packed salad that can be customized for a variety of dietary approaches.
- 4 beets, cleaned and trimmed of greens and root tip
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)
- baby arugula (or other salad green)
- Roquefort, Gorgonzola, or other blue cheese, crumbled
- 3 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- drizzle of raw honey
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Place beets in foil, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Add a few drops of water, and seal foil tight.
- Roast them until a knife easily penetrates, 40 minutes to an hour, depending on size.
- Cool, and remove skins with a peeler or the edge of a spoon.
- Slice beets into ¼-inch pieces, then cut into half moons.
- Optional: In a 300° F oven, toast hazelnuts until light brown and fragrant, stirring once. Cool, and roughly chop.
- Whisk together vinegar, mustard, honey and salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Or blend all dressing ingredients in a blender.
- In a medium bowl, combine arugula with thyme and season with salt and black pepper.
- Add blue cheese, beets, hazelnuts, drizzle with dressing and toss gently to combine.
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