Beets: The uber tuber
Went our for dinner and had a delicious beet salad last night, and I was reminded how much I love these little gems. Now, I know they’ve gotten a bad rap, but honestly I don’t know why. They’re sweet, but not too sweet, and they’re loaded with lots of healthy nutrients I can’t be bothered to look up the spelling of. You know, whatever it is you get from dark colored fruits and vegetables. So, I thought I’d take a mo and mention the mighty beet and offer a bit of advice on preparing them.
Quick note: There seems to be a mania for raw beets at the moment, but that is just wrong. If you want to shred ’em and eat ’em raw, that’s between you and your god. Personally I never would. Call me a conscientious objector on the issue.
So right off quick, set your oven to 425 degrees.
Take your beets and lop off the leaves, leaving about an inch of stem on each beet. If the greens are fresh, you can wash them and steam them. They are absolutely delicious with a pat of butter and a drizzle of red wine vinegar. If you’ve never tried the greens, do so immediately. Some say they’re the best part of the veg.
Give the beets a good scrub and lay them out on a big sheet of aluminum foil. Nigella suggests wrapping them individually, but that’s way too much work for me. One big sheet will do just fine, unless the beets are dramatically different in size, in which case you would wrap the large ones in one sheet and the small ones in another. Stands to reason — bigger beets need longer to cook.
Seal the packet and set it on top of a cookie sheet. Because there is a high concentration of sugar in beets, they can “bleed” during roasting and leak all over the oven.
Personally, I kind of like the smell of burning sugar, but it can be a bear to scrape off, and cleaning the oven is not that high on my To Do list. In fact, I don’t even have a To Do list, but if I did, I can assure you that cleaning the oven would not be on it.
Cook the beets for about an hour — a little less if they’re tiny, more if they’re big.
Take them out of the oven and let them cool enough to handle. You can either wear gloves or run them under cool water while you peel them barehanded to avoid staining your skin. Or maybe you like having magenta hands. Suit yourself. So the skins should just slip right off and you can easily pull off the stems.
The roasted beets will keep in the fridge for a week or so, covered in a pyrex dish or a plastic container, though they’ll stain plastic.
You can grind them up for beet soup or borscht. Sometimes I just quarter them and pour over a little apple cider vinegar or add them to a chopped avocado or some steamed green beans for salad. You can add them to green salads (accompanied by dollops of goat cheese, crumbled bleu or slivers of pecorino). I like goat cheese and walnuts on arugula with a little balsamic vinaigrette, but you can improvise. And you should.