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Quick-Roasted or Slow-Roasted Beets

Fine Cooking Issue 56
Photo: Scott Phillips
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Learning to love beets isn’t nearly as hard as you might imagine, because a roasted beet isn’t so much a beet as it is a sweet and tender roasted vegetable. If you like roasted carrots or roasted onions or even roasted potatoes, you owe it to yourself to roast a beet. You don’t even have to peel them; sliced or cut into wedges, beets just need a hot oven to turn crisp and caramelized at the edges, tender and moist in the middle.  

When I need instant gratification, I slice beets very thinly and “quick-roast” them on a baking sheet. Tossed in a bit of olive oil, salt, and herbs first, these beautiful morsels caramelize in less than 25 minutes in high heat. I try not to eat all of them right off the baking sheet (though I can’t resist the really thin ones that turn into chips) since they’re a great base for a salad or a side dish.   

But when I have time, I slow-roast bigger wedges of beets in lower heat. I wrap the wedges in foil (so trapped steam helps cook them through), but they still caramelize in their own juices where they’re in contact with the hot pan. These hearty beets are great to make ahead, since they’re terrific warm or cold, dressed in vinaigrettes or warm dressings and mounded on platters to serve family-style or as part of a buffet. Whatever method you choose, remember to give beets a little acid—they love vinegar, lemon juice, and orange juice—and even tangy-creamy additions like goat cheese, crème fraîche and horseradish sauce to balance their intense sweetness.

Ideas for beets

Serve roasted beets simply, with or without a squeeze of lemon or a dash of vinegar. Or use them in other dishes, or in the ideas below:

• Sir-fry tender greens like spinach or watercress with chopped fresh ginger and garlic. Add roasted beet slices or wedges to the pan; deglaze with a little orange juice and cider vinegar. Serve warm.
• Arrange a bed of roasted beet slices and top with a bit of really good blue cheese and a seared filet mignon.
• Marinate roasted beet wedges in a mix of orange and lemon juice, fresh thyme, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Serve on a bed of arugula, garnished with toasted hazelnuts.


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