I love beets. And I find they are quite polarizing. People seem either to love them or loathe them. One of my good friends swears that she does not, and never will, like beets. Someday, I would love to prove her wrong! After all, my husband declared he didn’t like beets when we first met, and now he raves about my beet recipes!
There really are two parts to enjoy, the root and the greens. I usually cook the greens the same way I cook rainbow chard, chopped and sautéed in olive oil with some garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice at the end. You can substitute beet greens in place of chard, spinach or other dark greens in most recipes. Be aware, however, that the stems of red beet greens can still bleed, albeit much less so than the roots.
About that staining … Although golden and Chioggia beets will not stain the way red beets do, my strategy for minimizing any mess can be found in the base recipe for roasting beets below. I find it easiest to roast beets well ahead of time, and have them ready to go when I need. You can also freeze cooked beets to use another time.
Generally speaking, beets are quite sweet, sometimes almost cloyingly so. Because of this, I most often like to pair beets with something to provide a sharp counterpoint, such as yogurt or blue cheese. And sometimes, when I’ve cooked a bunch ahead of time and they are sitting in a bowl in the refrigerator, I will toss cubes of roasted beets on a salad with feta or blue cheese — no recipe needed!
Base recipe for using beets
Preheat oven to 400 F. If it’s at 350 F because you have something else in the oven, that’s fine, too. It just might take a little longer.
If you have beets with greens attached, cut off the greens about an inch above the roots and save for another use. Wash off any dirt clinging to the beets and place in a metal pan. I use an old metal pan as sometimes beets give off some dirt and I like to use a pan I can really scrub. Add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water. Cover the pan tightly with foil. The length of time needed will depend on the oven temperature and the size of the beets. If they are large, it will probably take a full hour. Baby beets might take as little as 30 minutes. You can use a cake tester or a thin knife to check. If it goes easily all the way through at the largest part, the beets are done.
When done, place the entire pan, with the beets, into the sink, and tip out any remaining water. Let the beets cool for a few minutes. Put on a pair of clean rubber gloves to protect your hands from turning red. Over the sink, rub off the skin which should come off very easily. You can do this without gloves, but will have to wait for them to cool fully. Use a knife on any stubborn spots. Place the beets in a covered bowl in the refrigerator until needed.
BEETS WITH TAHINI AND YOGURT
Serves 2 to 4
2 large or 3 medium Roasted Beets (see above), cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup tahini
Zest from 1 orange, plus zest for garnish, if desired
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice (about ½ an orange)
1/2 teaspoon za’atar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper or Aleppo pepper, or more to taste
2 tablespoons ice water
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
Flat-leaf parsley for garnish, if desired
Place beets in a medium bowl. Tahini can be difficult to work with. If it has separated, try to get some of the solids and some of the liquid into a 2-cup glass measuring cup and gently try to combine the two. Add the orange zest and juice, za’atar, salt and pepper. Then add ice water and whisk to smooth out. Pour over the beets and then put the yogurt on top. Stir gently to combine, folding the yogurt into the tahini mixture while mixing with the beets. Taste and adjust seasoning before serving. (Flavors will meld over time if not serving immediately.) Garnish with orange zest and parsley if desired.
BEET RISOTTO WITH BLUE CHEESE
Serves 6 to 8
2 large or 3 medium Roasted Beets (see above), cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 to 3 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion or shallot
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 ounces Gorgonzola or other blue cheese crumbled
Chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish, if desired
Place the broth in a medium saucepan and add enough water to make 5 cups. Bring to a boil and the lower the heat to keep it just barely at a simmer on the burner behind the burner where you will make the risotto.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the butter and oil together over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent and just barely beginning to brown on the edges. Add the rice and stir for about a minute until coated with the oil. Add the wine and stir until almost completely absorbed.
Set a timer for 13 minutes, and begin adding the broth to the rice, 1 to 2 ladlesful at a time, stirring continually to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom. Adjust the heat to keep the mixture hot and simmering, but not boiling. Allow the broth to absorb almost completely before adding the next 1 to 2 ladlesful of broth. When the timer buzzes, add the reserved cubed beets. Set the timer for another 5 minutes and continue cooking, adding more broth as needed. If you think you might run out of broth, just add a bit more water to the pot.
When the timer buzzes, taste a piece or two of rice. (You may not have used all the broth. Be sure to turn that burner off, too!) It should be tender, but still firm in the middle, al dente, similar to the desired doneness for pasta. If still too hard, continue cooking for a few more minutes. Add the blue cheese and stir to melt into the risotto. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
If you have leftovers, I find it helpful to stir another ladleful of cool broth into the cooled risotto before putting into the refrigerator.