Last November, when roadside produce stands were closing down shop for the winter, I snagged a ten-pound bag of young beets for ninety-nine cents. Thrilled at the great deal I had just made, I imagined the beets lasting us through the winter – and all for pennies.
They were gone by Christmas. Apparently I like beets, a lot. There’s something about their firm texture and earthy I-can-taste-the-garden flavor that satisfies my hankering for vegetables in January.
I’ve since discovered that my ardor for this hearty, affordable, vegetable is shared by few; too few, in my opinion. Perhaps cooks are deterred by the length of cooking time, as beets must be first roasted or boiled properly, but then again, so do potatoes.
I believe, as is often the case with lesser-known ingredients, that people just don’t know what to do with beets. Hopefully by the end of this post, I’ll have planted a few ideas for incorporating the mildly sweet, crimson-red beet into your cooking repertoire.
Cooking Beets 101
The first thing you’ll notice about beets is that they are as hard as golf balls – or at least they should be. Don’t buy beets that are soft or wrinkly around the tops; they should have the potential to bust a window, but who needs that information?
Scrub the beets well under cold water, but do not peel them – yet. Beets are best cooked with their skins on to retain flavor and moisture. Plus, the skins slip off easily after they are cooked.
You can boil or roast your beets, with roasting yielding a slightly sweeter end result simply because the natural sugars caramelize during roasting. In my tutorial on roasting vegetables, I share a basic recipe for roasting beets that can be used for all sizes and varieties.
Boiling beets is even simpler. Cover whole beets with cold water and bring to a boil. Partially cover pot, and simmer over medium heat until the tip of a knife slips easily into the beet. Cooking time will vary with freshness and size of beets.
Once the beets are boiled or roasted, it’s time to peel them. I do this in my kitchen sink (and avoid stained cutting boards or counters) under running cold water. Trim the ends of each beet and use your thumbs to rub the skin off. This is best done when they are hot or still warm.
Beet Bounty: Recipes Featuring Beets
The ever-resourceful website The Kitchn shares five ways to eat beets but I’ve rounded up five times that for your perusal. Bookmark or Pin this post, then go buy a bundle of beets!
Beets in Salads
Below I’m posting my third recipe on this blog for a salad featuring beets, which demonstrates just how suitable I find them for a fresh-tasting winter salad. There are a host of ways beets can enhance a salad; here are just a few.
- Beet & Quick-Pickled Golden Raisin Salad
- Arugula Salad with Roasted Beets & Carrots :: My Kitchen Addiction
- Roasted Beet & Apple Salad with Fresh Ricotta (pictured above)
- Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Candied Walnuts :: Guilty Kitchen
- Cabbage Beet Coleslaw :: The Kitchn
Beets in Soups
Now, the Ukrainian in me will bitterly defend the position that a classic borscht is the best beet soup on the planet, especially if it is made by Baba. However, I realize that beets lend themselves beautifully to many varieties of soups. I can’t wait to try the recipes below.
- Cheryl’s Borscht :: Backseat Gourmet
- Beet and Fennel Soup with Kefir :: Love and Olive Oil
- Cumin Scented Beet and Carrot Soup :: My Kitchen Addiction
- Beefy Russian Borscht :: Goodlife Eats
Beets as a Side
Simple roasted beets with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt is a fine side dish, if you ask me; however, if you care to dress them up even further, try one of these recipes.
- Balsamic Roasted Beets :: Our Kitchen
- Hasselback-Style Roasted Beets with Orange and Shallot Sauce :: Lemons and Lavender
- Herbed Goat Cheese Tart with Roasted Beets :: Crumpets and Cakes
- Red Beet Risotto :: Dolcetto Confections
Beets in Baking
Dessert? Yes please. Beets lend sweetness and moisture to a variety of baked goods. Here’s a few ideas from the experts to get you started.
- Chocolate Beet Cupcakes (pictured above)
- Beet Brownies :: Stetted
- Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting :: Joy the Baker
- Chocolate Beet Tea Loaf :: Luna Cafe
- Gluten Free Chocolate and Roasted Beet Pudding Cakes :: Cannelle et Vanille
Beets in Brine
A quick scroll through the ‘beets’ tag on Punk Domestics was all it took to convince me that home canned pickled beets need to be added to my winter canning repertoire. The only question remaining is: which recipe first?
- Pickled Chioggia Beets :: Backseat Gourmet
- Pickled Beets & Onions :: Cooking Lessons
- Pickled Beets With Cumin and Cloves :: The Garden of Eating
- Pickled Golden Beets :: Serious Eats (fantastic tutorial by Marisa)
Recipe: Beet & Orzo Salad with Feta, Walnuts and Bitter Greens
This pretty winter salad makes for the perfect lunch. A simple balsamic vinaigrette brings together the sweetness of the beets and the mild orzo pasta. Creamy feta cheese provides both saltiness and acidity, while celery leaves balances the salad out with their slightly bitter taste.
A number of winter greens would be great in this salad; try arugula, chopped Belgian endive or shredded radicchio.
|Recipe: Beet & Orzo Salad with Feta, Walnuts & Celery Greens.||
- 1 cup dried orzo pasta
- 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
- 3 small beets, cooked and cut into 8 wedges
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- 3/4 cup chopped celery fronds, or other bitter lettuce greens
- salt and pepper
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook orzo as per package directions, about ten minutes. Rinse with cold water and set aside to drain well.
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and Balsamic vinegar.
- In a large bowl, combine orzo pasta, vinaigrette and sliced beets and mix well. Add crumbled feta and toasted walnuts; toss to combine.
- Roughly chop celery leaves or other bitter greens and add to the salad, mixing well. Lightly season the salad with salt and pepper, then taste and adjust as necessary.
- Serve at room temperature.
How are you enjoying beets this winter?