How To: Cooking with Beets!

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For some reason, I feel that beets have been considered to be an out-of-date veggie.  Something your mom or grandmother would make…and you’d tried to get out of eating.  Mostly recognized in a can on the grocery store shelves or lumped together in mysterious neon pink juice on the salad bar.  But beets are making a big comeback these days – showing up in more and more recipes and being recognized for their phenomenal nutrition power.

For those of you still shying away from these delicious roots, here’s a little history and info that might sway your mind.  Beets, as you know, are a root vegetable – part of the same group that swiss chard and spinach come from.  The most common variety are the deep magenta beets, but they also come in golden yellow and “candy cane” which are red and white striped.  It is believed to be originally cultivated around the edge of the Mediterranean sea but lost popularity as spinach made its way into the food scene.  Some interesting beet facts:  beetroot juice can be used to make wine, roots and leaves have been used in folk medicine to treat a multitude of ailments and regular consumption of beet juice has shown some evidence of improved athletic performance.

But how to actually cook and eat beets?  Simple enough!  Grab a bunch of beets at the farmer’s market or grocery store – but make sure to grab some that have decent looking leaves as well – because they are just as edible and delicious as the roots!  (Note!  Beets stain pretty much everything they touch – so be very careful and wash hands thoroughly after handling them!)  Trim off the the stems/leaves and set aside.  Scrub beet roots in water to remove all grit and dirt.  If they’re are large beets, cut in half or quarters to speed up cooking time. I prefer to roast them, as it intensifies their flavor, but you could steam them as well.
Roasted Beets:
Preheat oven to 400 F.  Toss beets with olive oil and salt/pepper to taste.  Roast uncovered for about 40 minutes or until beets are easily pierced with a fork.
Steamed Beets:
If you choose to steam the beets, peel the outer layer of skin.  Place beets in a steamer basket over     boiling water, and steam for about 15 minutes until tender.

Beet Greens:
So you saved these beet tops – now what?  First step is a thorough washing.  They seem to hang on to dirt and sand like its their job – so wash ’em up.  Then give them a rough chop and sauté in a little olive oil until wilted.  Anywhere you would use cooked spinach or other greens, beet tops can be a great substitution.  You could also chopped them more finely and add them to salads.  Last night, I made creamed spinach, but instead of spinach, I used the sautéed beet greens – very yummy!

Once cooked, you can add the beets to just about anything.  I like serving the roasted ones by themselves as a side dish.  Leftover steamed or roasted beets can be tossed into a salad for the lunch the next day.  But one of my favorite all time recipes is my mom’s summer beet salad.  It’s so yummy and refreshing, I always have to make a bunch of it!  Here’s the recipe!

Summer Beet Salad:

  • 2 lbs cooked beets, sliced thinly (steamed or roasted)
  • 1 can drained and rinsed chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, mix together the beets, chickpeas, red onion and mint – tossing to combine.  Add in the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper, and stirring to coat the ingredients well.  I like to let this salad sit for about 30 minutes so all the flavors can merry.  Serve cold or room temperature!
Now, if I haven’t convinced you to munch on some beets yet, check out their nutrition info!  1 cup of beets contains only 58 calories, 4 g of fiber, 325 mg of potassium, 11% of your daily needs of vitamin C (beet greens contain almost 50% of your daily vitamin C needs) and 27% of your daily needs of folate.  In addition, that great color that is so unique to beets is due to plant compounds called carotenoids and betalains.  These have been shown to provide, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support in the body.  The combination of these plant compounds in addition to high amounts of vitamins and minerals, makes beets a nutrition power house!

1 Comment

  1. Amy

    November 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I am making a version of Phyllis’s roasted root vegetables for thanksgiving and I’m terrified of staining everything w/ beets but they are oh so necessary! Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

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