By Jeanne Kelley
from Fine Cooking #113, p. 71-75
I was a 17-year-old exchange student living in southern France when I first tried beets. My host mother passed me a platter of them, sliced and drizzled with a parsley vinaigrette, as an appetizer. I politely put a few of the shiny, dark purple slices on my plate and dug in, taking care to temper my expectations—in southern California, where I had grown up, beets, served mostly from cans, were considered both unfashionable and unpalatable. So it was to my great surprise that the beets before me tasted tender, moist, and full of sweet, earthy flavor. They were, in short, delicious.
Over the years, fresh beets have continued to surprise me. Not only are they great in savory dishes, but they can also be used in desserts like the rich, moist chocolate cake. You can roast, sauté, boil, or braise them, and when grated or very thinly sliced, they’re even good raw. What’s more, their greens are tasty and nutritious, too.
Experiment with different beet varieties in the recipes here—the super-sweet, common Detroit Dark Red, red-and-white-striped Chioggia, and gorgeous Golden beet are among my favorites—and the only thing that shouldn’t surprise you is how delicious they are.
Eat your greens One of the great things about beets is that the whole plant is edible; those leafy tops are just as tasty as the roots. Beet greens are similar in flavor to Swiss chard and can be prepared the same way. When sautéed, braised, added to soup, or cooked and tossed into pasta, they add a robust, earthy note. Small, tender raw beet leaves make a colorful addition to mesclun mixes or a pretty garnish for sliced beets. Store beets and their greens separately, as the leaves continue to draw moisture and nutrients from their roots if still attached. Refrigerate washed and dried greens in a plastic bag for up to two days; the beets will keep in a plastic bag for up to three weeks.
Video Recipe: Watch and learn how to make Beet Salad with Oregano, Pecans, and Goat Cheese.
Photos by: Scott Phillips