Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Beet It

Remember beets?  The only person in my family who liked them when I was growing up was my mother.   She ate them out of a jar and probably does to this day.  Pickled purple disks in a jar were a major food gross-out to us kids and to my dad, who eats almost anything. 

I never saw a beet in its natural state until recent years, when the ever-so-saccharin Neelys from the Food Network made a salad that prompted me to buy them.  If you aren't familiar with the much-maligned beet, it's a root vegetable that resembles a turnip or rutabaga but has a long, leafy top.  The greens are full of nutrients and can be eaten, but I usually cut them off at the bulb and throw them out.  I thought I might actually do something with them this time, so I saved them and put them in the fridge.   Let me know if you have a use for beet greens (other than tossing them on the compost pile).

It's a shame I missed out on all those good beet-eating years because now I have discovered how wonderful this low-calorie, folate-filled vegetable can be.  If the thought of eating beets makes you squirm, you might want to give them another shot by buying them fresh and roasting them in the oven.  It brings out their sweetness.  I really like them this way, as does my previously beet-hating sister.

My neighbor's mom, a delightful Brazilian grandma and fellow beet lover, shared with me another preparation that's delicious.  She boils them in sugar, vinegar and water, slices them and stores them in the fridge in their cooking liquid.  They keep for quite a while that way.  Watch for that recipe in a future beety post. 

I simply wrap them in foil and put them in a 425-degree oven for an hour until they are soft enough to slip a knife into.  I let them cool,  peel off the skin with a paring knife and watch my hands turn - yessirree - beet red.  The counter, the cutting board and anything else within staining distance will turn that color, too.   You've been warned.  Put on the Hazmat suit to protect your clothes.

The aforementioned Neely concoction is one of my all-time favorite salads.  It paid to watch those two fawning all over each other the day they made this dish.  So simple that I never had to look up the recipe, it's addictive due to its balance of bitter and sweet flavors and crunchy and tender textures.   I am not listing measurements because you can add as much or as little of each ingredient as you prefer. 

Beet and Arugula Salad
(Inspired by the give-me-some-sugar schmaltz of "Down Home with the Neelys" on Food Network)

Bunch of arugula
Red onion, sliced
Roasted beet, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
Pecans, toasted and chopped
Goat cheese, crumbled
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

Toss together the first five ingredients, then splash with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Note:  A colorful medley of ingredients, this salad is pretty served in a glass bowl.  Take the time to toast the pecans (or walnuts).  It adds more nutty flavor and only takes 5 minutes in a dry, medium-hot skillet.  I know this step must be important because the judges on one of the food competition shows looked incredulous and then glared at one of the chefs in utter disdain when he said he didn't toast the nuts in his recipe.  Uh-oh.  I don't know whether he got chopped or had to pack his knives and go, but it was one of the two and his nuts were then toasted.  (Sorry.  I can't help myself.  I'll stop now.)


  1. I love beets too! Especially on salad. Unfortunately I usually don't take the time to cook them myself but they are wonderful.

  2. Yes, beets are great!!! Thank you for the kind words about mom!!

  3. Delicious! I used Ken's light balsamic mixed with Ken's light olive oil. I also used sweet onion instead of red onion which I was out of. The outcome was still very tasty.