OK, OK, it’s technically not autumn yet (today being Labour Day and all), but I’m in an autumn mood. It has cooled down a little here and I’ve been craving heartier, stodgier dishes. Soup, stews and braises are on my mind. I’m going to do an entire post devoted to pot roast soon (probably the next week or so). But for now, I’d like to talk about beets.
I’ve always loved beets. When I was a toddler, my parents would go to Burger King when they used to have a huge salad bar (this probably ages me a little…). I would happily eat a supper of french fries and pickled beets and I’ve loved them ever since. They’re really, really good for you, too. They’re high in folate, potassium and manganese. And their bright fuchsia hue that stains the entire kitchen isn’t just pretty, it is full of betacyanin, which is a very powerful anti-cancer agent. And they’re delicious.
Beets are sweet and earthy. They are a wonderful root vegetable. I like to use them in salads. My favourite is to use roasted beets with spinach, red onions, goat cheese and pine nuts with a balsamic-maple vinaigrette. Dress the beets separately from the rest of the salad or the entire bowl will be pink. They also pair well with citrus fruits for salads, both with the dressing and slices of the fruit. Beets are also great in soups, like borscht. I like to make a pot of carrot, beet and ginger soup for lunches at work. Just add roasted carrots, beets and onions to a pot, add some stock, garlic and lots of the aforementioned ginger. Puree when all is tender and season liberally with salt and pepper. I also like to add a splash of rice wine vinegar to perk up the flavours at the end.
Beets are also a great simple side dish. They are especially sweet when roasted. This is also the easiest, less-messy way of preparing them. Remove the stems and tails and wrap in a few layers of tin foil. I like to add a sprinkle of salt and a glug of olive oil before wrapping it up completely. Roast it in the oven for about 45 minutes or so at 350F, or until tender. Let them cool slightly until you can handle them. The skins slip right off. I usually put a plastic bag over my hand so I don’t have pink fingers for the rest of the day. Chop them and serve immediately. They’re really good with a little more olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Sweet and tangy.
Beets are definitely best fresh, but if you can find some good pickled beets, they’re also great as a side for sandwiches or in salads. Whatever you do, do NOT buy canned beets. They’re almost a dull red as opposed to the vibrant pink and taste like wallpaper paste. I do not need to get into how I know what wallpaper paste tastes like. Just trust me on this one.
Eat some beets! They’re good for you and they taste great! Look how purdy!