You Can’t Beat Beets

Beets can be delicious roasted, pickled or in a salad.
Beets can be delicious roasted, pickled or in a salad.

In the colder seasons, when you may struggle to find fresh and delicious produce at a reasonable price, beets make a distinctively flavorful choice. If you are learning to cook and have not yet tried a recipe using this root vegetable, it’s time to add to your repertoire. Here are some tips on picking out beets and simple ideas for preparing them at home.

Selecting beets
Martha Stewart recommended checking beets for firmness and smooth, taut skin. Avoid specimens that have grown overly large; you want younger beets whenever possible as they’re more tender. If available, pick ones with fresh, tasty-looking leaves.

However, as the winter wears on, beets’ greens wilt, and consequently producers tend to remove the leaves, as Bon Appetit explained. If you do find beets that still have fresh, healthy greens, they serve a few culinary purposes. Try braising or steaming the leaves and making them part of a beet salad or pasta dish. Or, just saute the greens with minced garlic and olive oil, as the New York Times suggested.

If you buy beets with their leaves intact, you should remove the tops immediately. Wrap the greens in a moist paper towel, store them in your crisper and be sure to use them within a few days. Then place the roots in an unsealed plastic bag and refrigerate them. As long as you keep the beets dry they can remain tasty for up to two months.

Roasted beets
One of the most common ways of preparing beets is to roast them. This method brings out the vegetables’ sweetness and tenderizes the leaves while retaining the earthy character. Once cooked, the beets are great by themselves or incorporated into other dishes

Add herbs and other flavor combinations during preparation for delicious results. Valerie Bertinelli advised coating the beets in olive oil and seasoning them with Kosher salt and black pepper before roasting at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. When the the edges of the beets brown, after about 35 minutes, mix in fresh herbs like parsley and tarragon and serve. Real Simple suggested tossing the beets with carrots cut into two-inch pieces, olive oil, rosemary and red wine vinegar before cooking.

4x6 jbg beetsRoasted beets can also be excellent when pickled, which also helps the vegetables last longer in storage. Alton Brown explained that you should prepare for the pickling process by first cutting the skin off your cooked beets and slicing them. Place layers of the beets in a pickling jar along with a thinly sliced red onion. Boil 1 cup of tarragon wine vinegar with 1.5 teaspoons of Kosher salt, half a cup of sugar and 1 cup of water. Then pour this mixture over the beets and seal the jar. Refrigerate at least three days before serving.

Beet salad
If you want to enjoy your beets immediately, the easiest way is to use them in a salad. Serious Eats recommended cutting the roots using a Japanese mandoline slicer, which will release their natural sweetness. Toss the sliced beets with a vinaigrette and some hearty greens like radicchio or endive.

Always remember to cover your cutting board and other work surfaces when preparing beets. The vegetable’s bright color tends to transfer to everything it touches, including the salad greens. However, you can avoid turning everything red by finding golden or chioggia beets. The Kitchn noted that chioggia beets, which are Italian heirloom vegetables, are distinguished by their fuchsia skin and pink and white-striped interior.

Now that you know a little more about beets, try finding your own uses for this sweet and colorful root vegetable. Once you master the basics of roasting beets and combining them with herbs and other ingredients, there are countless possibilities for featuring them in your recipes.

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