Week 35: Red as a Beet
It is looking likely that we get our first snow of 2021 this weekend! Who is ready? The snow will be a welcome sight and provides a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy its beauty. The snow-covered fields at the farm make it clear how important the already harvested root vegetables are during this time. This week, we take a dive in to beets. Yes, beets, the food that few are enthused to eat. However, beets have experienced a renaissance. Chefs are now using beets in creative ways and have totally changed the reputation of the root. Hopefully with some new knowledge and different recipes, a few of you that are on the fence or who even outright dislike beets will take a turn towards the light.
Because beets are a cool-weather crop, we get a harvest in the spring and again in the fall. The edible green tops are only with us in spring and fall, leaving us with the root as a storage crop all winter long. At Moutoux, we get a variety of beets in a rainbow of colors. Aside from the typical red/purple ones, the yellow/orange beets are slightly sweeter. The pure white ones are very sweet with curlier green tops. And the Chioggia is a gorgeous Italian heirloom with the concentric pink and white, perfect for slicing. Beets can be used interchangeably in recipes, though their cooking times will vary slightly.
More than any other vegetable, beets taste of the soil in which they are grown. Sweet and earthy, with a mineral essence. They contain more natural sugar than starch, the highest amount of any vegetable. Their sweetness makes them natural companions to acidic and sharp flavors such as citrus, dominant herbs, bitter greens, and goat cheese.
Beets can be steamed, boiled, roasted, pickled, eaten raw, or even microwaved in a pinch. Roasting or grilling intensifies their sweetness while pickling balances it. Try a new cooking method that pairs up with the flavors you tend to like. You’ll be Red as a Beet when you realize you love something you thought you hated!
Dig into the archives for more spectacular beet recipes:
Beet and Carrot Slaw (2020/2021, Week 5)
Beet Raisins (2019/2020, Week 7)
Roasted Beet and Potato Borscht (2020/2021, Week 34)
Roasted Beets with Citrus (2019/2020, Week 39)
ROASTED BEETS, JULIA STYLE
1 ½ pounds beets (3 to 5 medium beets), 1 inch of tops and tails attached
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more as needed
Optional: 2 tablespoons red wine
Preheat the oven to 450F degrees.
Wash the beets and nestle them into a roasting pan. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and wine, if using. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil. Roast until tender when priced with a fork, 40 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of the beets. Remove the pan form the oven and carefully lift the lid or foil. Let the beets cool until you can comfortably touch them.
Use your hands or a paring knife to remove the top and tail of each beet. Then apply pressure to the skin and slide it right off. If the beets are cooked enough, the skin should easily come off. If it doesn’t, use a paring knife. If you’re making the beets to use later, store them whole in a covered container in the refrigerator. To use right away, chop each beet into bite-sized pieces and place them in a serving bowl. Add a sprinkle of salt and, if they seem to need it, a glug of olive oil.
NOTES: Serves 4.
BEET AND WALNUT SALAD
¼ cup walnuts or other nuts
4 medium cooked beets, peeled
1 ½ tablespoons sherry vinegar or 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar that’s been boiled down by half
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
Roast the nuts on a baking sheet for 15 minutes until very lightly browned and fragrant. Let the nuts cool slightly and chop coarsely.
Slice the beets 1/8 and ¼ inch thick. Toss gently with the vinegar. At this stage the beets can sit in the refrigerator for up to a couple of days.
Just before serving, toss the beets with the nuts, olive oil and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. If you’re not serving this salad right away, toss in the nuts just before so they don’t turn soggy.
NOTES: Serves 4. If you don’t like beets or find their flavor overpowering, this salad may change your mind. The sherry vinegar provides the right accent, but balsamic vinegar will also work. If you’re using inexpensive brand of balsamic vinegar, you can improve it by boiling it down by half and keeping it on hand. The walnuts give this salad a welcome crunch, but other nuts, such as pine nuts, pecans, or silvered almonds, will also work. Serve this salad at a casual lunch at the same time as everything else, but at dinner serve it as a first course either alone or with other small salads.
CHICKEN AND BEET STIR FRY
1 pound chicken meat, cut into bite-size pieces
4 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
½ cup naturally fermented soy sauce
2 cups homemade chicken broth
2 to 4 beets, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons coconut oil or lard
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons arrowroot dissolved in ½ cup filtered water
Basic brown rice
Place the chicken in a medium bowl. Add the garlic and soy sauce, cover, and refrigerate overnight to marinate.
Pour both into a large saucepan, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a simmer. Add the beets and carrots, return to a simmer, then lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour, until softened.
Melt the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook for about 30 minutes, until softened and browned. Add the chicken, raise the heat to medium, and cook for about 10 minutes, until cooked through. Add the carrots and beets with the broth, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Stir in the arrowroot slurry, bring to a simmer and simmer for a minute or two until thickened. Serve over brown rice.
NOTES: Serves 2 to 4
RED BEET PANCAKES
1 cup all purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
3 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
2 medium beets, roasted and pureed (about ¾ cup)
1 ¼ cup milk
1/3 cup yogurt
1 large egg
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Sift the first 5 ingredients into a bowl
Place the rest of the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine.
Add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until just combined (you don’t want to over stir the batter – some lumps are good).
Drop about 2 Tbsp of the pancake mixture onto a greased griddle or pan over medium heat and cook for 3 minutes on each side.
Serve with desired accompaniments such as honey, maple syrup, butter or raspberry sauce.
Notes: Serves 6.
CHARRED PICKLED BEETS
10 lb beets
2 cups white vinegar (5% or higher)
1 cup balsamic vinegar (5% acidity or greater)
½ cup honey or 1 ¼ cups white sugar
1 teaspoon pickling salt
12 sprigs of thyme
12 shallots, peeled with ends removed but kept whole
6 teaspoon caraway seeds
Preheat the BBQ (or a baking sheet under a broiler) to maximum heat while you clean the beets and remove any greens. Place the beets on the BBQ rack and close the lid. Open the lid every 2-3 minutes to rotate the beets; once the skin is completely charred, after 15-25 minutes, transfer the beets to a large pot and cover with a lid. When the beets are cool enough to handle, pop on your gloves and peel the beets by pushing against the skin.
Chop the beets so they are the same size as the shallots.
Prepare your canning pot and rack and sterilize your jars and lids.
Prepare a brine by placing both vinegars, the honey, and the salt in a medium-sized pot. Mix to combine and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Remove the jars from the canner and turn the heat to high.
Divide the thyme, shallots, caraway seeds, and beets between the jars. Cover with the brine, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Gently jostle the jars to release any air bubbles.
Wipe the rims of the jars, apply the lids and process for 30 minutes. Remove the jars from the canner and allow them to cool.
VARIATIONS: Replace the balsamic vinegar with sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar and add 1-2 cloves of garlic or 2 teaspoon of dill in each jar.
CENTER OF THE PLATE: Try a beet sandwich with pickled beets, goat cheese, pistachios, fresh greens, and a touch of honey. The brine is a fun addition to rice, which will assume its color. This is also great with white fish.