Archive for the ‘Beets’ Category

Raw Beets as a Salad Ingredient

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Raw beets have an intense earthy fragrance & sweetness when young and fresh from the garden, and explode with flavor and crunch in your mouth, but they must be sliced very thin to be good — use a mandolin or a potato peeler to get thin shavings.

Here, beets are added to an endive salad along with salad turnips and toasted pumpkin seeds. I used Phil’s Japanese dressing but any sweet & sour vinaigrette (or something with orange juice and zest) would work too.

NOTE: If you use a potato peeler, it’s easier to slice longitudinally (pole to pole) than to slice across.

Technicolor Salads

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

The gorgeous colors of fresh fruits and vegetables are great for composing “designer salads”, but the colors are also an index of healthy phytonutrients which are a hot topic in research these days.

Anthocyanins are red/blue/purple — think beets, red grapes (and red wine), strawberries, cherries, red cabbage, pomegranates, plums, cranberries, blackberries, blue berries and raspberries as well as dark leafy greens like chard, kale & collards (the red pigment is hidden by the chlorophyll). In plants, the anthocyanins absorb visible and UV light to minimize oxidative damage from solar radiation. In animals and humans who eat plants, the anthocyanins protect against oxidative damage caused by free radicals. They also reduce inflammation, protect against cancer…

Lycopene is red — think tomato, watermelon, pink grapefruit as well as apricots and pink guavas. They reduce the risk of several types of cancer.

Carotenoids are bright orange/yellow, present in carrots, pumpkins, mangos, apricots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes. They are antioxidants that also help improve communication between cells.

Lutins are green but considered a sub-class of carotenoids. They are present in collards, kale, peas, spinach & romaine lettuce. The reduce the risk of macular degeneration of the retina.

So go wild with color in your salads — technicolor combinations of veggies equals healthy! But don’t stop there. It turns out that herbs are packed with curative compounds, too — so a tablespoon of chopped basil, parsley, sage, thyme or tarragon will not only taste delightful but pack a nutritional punch as well.

Pennsylvania Dutch Pickled Beets

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

About 2 cups beets (measure after they have been cooked & sliced/diced)
1 medium onion, cut into “half-moon” slices
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water or beet cooking liquid if it is flavorful
1/2 tsp salt
12 whole cloves
4 whole allspice berries
stick of cinnamon
hard-boiled eggs if using, peeled

Steam or boil the beets till tender, then use your hand to slip off the peels and trim the root end with a knife. Cut into slices or dice.

Peel onion, cut in half, and slice into half-moons.

In a non-reactive pan, combine the sugar, vinegar, beet broth or water, salt, and spices — taste as you mix to get your personal perfect proportion of sugar to vinegar. Boil gently for 5 or 6 minutes to blend the flavors. Add the onion slices and stir into the boiling liquid, then remove from heat and add the beets. Let cool, then refrigerate. Gets better the second day. Serve chilled.

You can add a few whole hardboiled eggs to pickle along with the beets — if so, double the pickling liquid so there is plenty of juice to cover the eggs. They will turn a shocking pink color which looks quite festive when the eggs are cut in half or quarters to serve. Don’t pickle the eggs longer than two days, however, because they will get rubbery.

Roasted Beets: Three Variations on a Theme Plus a Footnote

Monday, June 4th, 2012

These three ideas come from the “Three Bowl Cookbook: The Secrets of Enlightened Cooking from the Zen Mountain Center” by Tom Pappas, long-term tenzo (cook) at the monestary. In Buddhist monasteries, meals are served in three bowls, reflecting the original alms bowls of mendicant monks. Tom writes: “Dogen Zenji said ‘Preparing food is offering the great assembly comfort and ease’.”

**For All Variations: Wrap beets tightly in aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour until they are fork tender (or steam or boil on the top of the stove if you don’t want to heat up the oven). When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into large chunks. Then proceed with one of the variations.

Variation 1: Ralph’s Beets with Mint. For 2 lbs beets, mix the juice of 1/2 lemon with a handful of fresh mint torn into pieces, add salt and a tiny bit of olive oil. Can also add zest from the lemon if you like. Mix with the beets and serve.

Variation 2: Roasted Beets with Balsamic Vinegar. Toss the chunked beets with balsamic vinegar to taste and serve.

Variation 3: Roasted Beets and Greens. Cook the beet tops in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes, then drain and plunge into cold water. Drain and squeeze out as much water as you can, then chop the greens and set aside. Heat olive oil in a cast iron pan and sauté the greens until softened. Add the cooked beets and the juice from 1/2 lemon to the pan and toss. Season with salt and pepper and serve. NOTE: if you don’t have presentable beet tops, sauté chopped chard or spinach instead. No need to parboil it first.

FOOTNOTE: In Maine, where my father’s side of the family comes from, “beet greens” are a special springtime treat. Baby beets, no larger than 1 or 1 1/2 inch, are lightly scraped with a paring knife, whisker roots trimmed, then steamed briefly with their tops still attached. Be very careful not to overcook. Serve hot with butter or cold with a few drops of vinegar.

You will probably have to grow your own baby beets in Philadelphia because <sniff> none of our local farmers sell beets this young.

Beets and Leeks in Wine, Ancient Roman Style

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

This recipe comes from De Re Coquinaria (On Cookery) by the first century gourmand Apicius. Here, the wine, leeks, spices and honey subtly enhance the earthy flavor of the beets without overwhelming them, leaving only the taste of pure beet essence.

1/2 lb young whole beets
3 leeks, white part only
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup beet stock
1/2 cup sweet white wine (Muscato or Rhine works well)
2 teaspoons honey or to taste

Boil or steam beets, drain, and reserve liquid. Peel, then cut into a 3/4 inch dice.

Using only the white part of the leeks, slice in half lengthwise, then in 1/2 inch slices. Swish in a large pot of water to remove sand.

In a mortar, pulverize cumin and peppercorns and add it to a saucepan along with the honey and the wine and stock. Simmer for five minutes to reduce a bit, then add the sliced leeks and beets. Cook, uncovered, until the leeks are very tender and the liquid is reduced further.

Serve at room temperature or chilled. A little whole milk yogurt is a very good accompaniment. This is even better the next day.