Oooooh, beets!

It’s beet time.  There are many things to do with beets, many ways to eat them, ranging from raw in salad to cooked into a cake.  This is an easy way that uses the entire bunch – beet, stems, and leaves.  And have the benefit of being delicious.

Beets Roasted with Their Own Greens

  • 1 bunch beets
  • 2 tsp mustard seed (brown, yellow, or a combination)
  • 2-3 tsp extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat the vegetables but not so much as to soak them)
  • kosher salt and ground pepper to taste

Cut the greens off the beets close to the tops of the beets.  Cut the greens and stems into large bites.  Wash well.  Beet greens tend to be sandy, it might take several rinses of water.   Dry well (a salad spinner is great for this.)  Trim the tops and bottoms off the beets then peel the beets.  Cut the beets into bite sized pieces.  Toss the beets, the greens, and the stems with the oil, mustard seed, salt, and pepper.  Put on a cookie sheet or baking dish.  It should be spread out in a single layer, not stacked up.  Bake at 425, stirring every 5-10 minutes, for about 45 minutes until the beets are tender to the fork.  If the greens start to burn, turn the heat down by 25 degrees and stir more often.  Eat hot, eat room temperature, eat cold.  Toss over green salad, eat by itself, enjoy.

Stain Those Hands! aka More About Beets

So you think you don’t like beets.  Or you already know you love them.  Either way, here are a couple more recipes for you to try.  If you fall into the first camp you may be pleasantly surprised.  If you fall into the second camp these will be welcome additions to your beet repertoire.  Either way, enjoy.  And if you try these and you still don’t like beets, then I can do no more but say well, more beets for the rest of us. 

Chocolate Spice Cake (with Beets, but no one will know if you don’t tell them…)

  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 oz dark baking chocolate
  • 2 cups beet puree
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • powdered sugar for decorating

First, make the beet puree.  Stem and root 5-6 medium beets, cover with water in a small saucepan, boil until tender.  Run under cold water until you can handle them then slip the skins off.  Puree in a blender then measure two cups.  (Use the rest in a soup or stirred into potato latkes or just eat.)  Next grease and flour a 10″ springform pan.  Using an electric mixer cream together 3/4 of the butter and the sugars.  Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing to incorporate well.  Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and the rest of the butter, either in the microwave (taking care not to scorch the chocolate) or a double boiler.  Set the chocolate aside to cool slightly.  In another bowl mix together all the dry ingredients.  Beat the chocolate into the butter/egg mixture.  It will look grainy or broken, don’t worry.  Mix in the dry ingredients, a cup at a time, until well mixed.   Pour into the pan and bake at 375 for 55 minutes, then check cake.  A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.  If it isn’t done, bake for up to another 20 minutes, checking every 7-8.  When it is done, cool for 10-15 minutes on a baking wrack then remove pan and cool thoroughly.  When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve with beautiful pink whipped cream (reserve 2 Tbs of the red beet cooking water and set aside.  Using a very cold bowl, cream, and beaters whip 1 cup heavy cream with 1 Tbs powdered sugar.  When it is quite thick, drizzle in the red water a little at a time.  Keep beating.  When it is the color you want, stop adding the water and beat until cream is whipped.  Serve each slice of cake with a healthy dollop of cream.  You can also garnish with a little grated beet but that might be going a bit too far.

Beet and Potato Mustard Gratin

  • 1 lb potatoes
  • 1 lb beets
  • 1 large or 2 small onions
  • 2 cups milk (cow or soy)
  • 1 Tbs brown mustard
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed, minced, or grated
  • 1-2 tsp kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Put the olive oil in the bottom of a glass baking dish, spread it all over the bottom and sides.  Peel and slice the potatoes, onions, and beets then layer them in the pan, ending with potatoes on top.  Meanwhile, whisk together everything else in a bowl.  Pour the wet mixture over the potato mixture, covering everything.  Cover pan with foil and bake at 400 for 35 minutes.  Remove foil and cook another 5-10 minutes to brown.  If there is a lot of liquid left in the pan leave open until moisture is absorbed.  Serve hot.

Beets

There are few vegetables that get as much negative press and hatred as beets (okra and eggplant might share top billing with beets).  I must admit that I was once of the haters.  Beets seemed a food that only old ladies ate, as I mostly remember my great, great Aunt Mabel eating them (and she died when I was still quite young) and they always seemed to ba sliced, slightly slimy, and pickled sweet.  Then I went away to college and one semester the food service ran out of money served only iceberg lettuce, canned beets, frozen peas, and cottage cheese on the salad bar for several weeks.  As the main dish was boiled pork (sometimes with horrifying “Hawaiian” sauce) I started eating beets by the plateful.  And lo and behold, they were delicious – or at least I could see the potential when they were topped with olive oil, a dash of vinegar, and plenty of salt.  Now, many years on, I love beets.  Boiled, roasted, baked, marinated, raw, in salads, pickled, in soups; however you do it beets are neat.  Try this salad.  Even confirmed “not a beet person” people like it.  And it is really, really good for you.

Beet and Carrot Salad with Tahini Ginger Dressing

  • 2 packed cups grated beets
  • 2 packed cups grated carrots
  • 2 Tbs tahini
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger root, peeled
  • 1 small clove garlic

In a large bowl mix together the carrots and beets.  In a small bowl mix together the tahini and olive oil, then add to the beets.  Using a microplane grater, grate the garlic and ginger.  Toss well to mix everything thoroughly.  Taste, season with salt and pepper as needed, mix well.  Eat.  Yum.

If your problem with beets is aesthetic – if you, like my husband, hate that beets dye everything on the plate the same color – then try the other, non-red beets.  Chiogga beets are red and white striped, like a candy cane and golden beets are lovely.  Try mixing them half and half with potatoes, some chopped dill pickle, green onion, a bit of sour cream, salt, and pepper for a really special potato salad.

Beet and Cabbage Burnip

In keeping with calling the fermented turnip (more usually called sauerruben) turnip burnip I am calling the fermented beet and cabbage (more usually called sauerkraut) burnip, too.  Several weeks ago I started a batch with grated green cabbage and assorted beets from the CSA.  It was done last week, and is delicious.  The color is gorgeous, think crystal clear ruby-pomegranate-pink.  The flavor is great, sauerkraut with a slightly sweet, earthy beet tone.  And the texture is wonderful – with enough body to have a little crunch but not hard.  And the nutritive value is very high – all the fiber and vitamins of fresh vegetables with the added benefit of probiotics.  Instead of heat canning it I am keeping it in the fridge, where it will last for many, many months.  It will keep more of its nutrients and the probiotics that way along with its texture.  If you have never made homemade fermented (salt brined) vegetables before I recommend you try it.  Here is an easy starter recipe that makes a this beautiful and yummy end result.

Beet and Cabbage Burnip aka Sauerkraut

  • 1 lb fresh beets, peeled
  • 4 lbs fresh green cabbage, trimmed
  • 3 Tbs pickling salt (which is just fine, pure salt – a word on salt below*)
  • water and more salt as needed for brine, at least 8 cups and 3 Tbs respectively

Either with  a sharp knife or the slicing blade of the food processor slice the cabbage.  Put in a large bowl.  Slice the beets then slice again (I ran mine through the food processor slicer 3 times so the pieces were not giant slabs.)  Put the beets with the cabbage.  Toss with the salt, mixing thoroughly.  Meanwhile, get your crock ready.  A crock should be a straight sided container with a flat bottom and should be either stoneware, plastic, or glass.  Never use metal.  Some people use (brand new) paint or hardware buckets when they are making a large quantity of pickles vegetables.  My crock is glass.  In any case, wash well and have crock ready to use.  Pack the beet and cabbage mix into the crock, pressing down as you put it in.  Make a batch of brine in a different container using 3 Tbs pickling salt to 2 quarts (8 cups) water, stir until salt is dissolved.  Add brine to the cabbage/beet blend as needed to make sure it is all covered with liquid but not in standing liquid.  Cover the whole surface area with a clean piece of damp cheesecloth (I have heard of people using a clean, old pillow case instead of the cheesecloth).  Then fill a gallon sized zip-close plastic bag about 3/4 of the way with the brine, get out all the air, seal closed and then seal that into a second bag.  (The second bag helps prevent leaking into your vegetables, the reason to use brine instead of plain water is in case of leaks your vegetables will still have the right salt to veggie ratio and properly ferment.  You can always dispose of or drink or cook with excess liquid later.)  Carefully place the plastic bag in the crock on top of the cheesecloth so none of the cloth, or the vegetables beneath it, are exposed to the air.  If you do this right the bag will “seal” the kraut and you will not have to worry about skimming it.  If you cannot air seal it then it might grow mold, scum, or bloom on the top.  Skim this off every day or two and throw it away, what is beneath will be fine.  If you are able to seal it with the bag (mine worked perfectly) you should not need to do anything to the kraut until you take it out of the crock to eat and store.  Place in a cool, dark place, preferably somewhere between 65-75 degrees.  Warmer and it will ferment faster and go off quicker.  Colder and it will take a very long time to ferment.  At ~65 degrees it takes around 4 weeks to be ready to eat, at 75 degrees about 2 weeks.  If you are using a glass crock, as I do, then wrap it in a tea towel or some other cloth so it isn’t exposed to light.  After a couple of weeks taste it.  If it is fermented as you like then either refrigerate in the crock or remove to clean glass storage jars and keep refrigerated.  Eat, enjoy, be healthy.

*The word about salt.  When you are making pickles, fermenting vegetables, canning anything you want to use pure salt without additives or extra ingredients.  Kosher salt, table salt, and sea salt are all not recommended as they contain ingredients other than salt.  Those other ingredients will not make your food bad for you but may discolor it or cloud the brine.  Brown sauerkraut in milky looking brine is not appealing.  Use pickling or pure salt, it is worth looking for it to get the most amazing looking end product.

What to do with CSA veggies tonight aka Red Raw Slaw

This was delicious and had the added benefit  of turning the pasta on the same plate pink.  This is a great way to use beets without having to heat up your oven or stove and for those who are not sure about eating raw beets mixing them with other vegetables makes them more appealing.  Me, I love beets all ways so don’t need tempting. 

Red Raw Slaw

  • 1/2 head Chinese cabbage
  • 2 beets (I used one red and one chiogga)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs rice vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Shred cabbage and grate the beets and carrot.  Very thinly slice the onion then toss all the ingredients together in a bowl.  Taste, season, eat.  You can add a little protein and crunch by adding a handful of sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts, or pumpkin seeds.  This salad is vegan, gluten-free, high fiber, raw, pareve…anything else?