Dingy, bulbous and rock-hard, these unassuming root vegetables are not all that appealing in their raw state. But once cooked, their protective skin peels back to expose vibrant, sweet flesh that’s as versatile as it is beautiful. These earthy little gems add flavor and a punch of color to a variety of winter culinary creations.
These hardy little jewels are not only uniquely delicious, but they are also chock full of dietary fiber and contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Beets are in season in the summer, fall and winter months and are especially great as a colorful and tasty addition to many cold-weather favorites.
What to look for
When it comes to selecting your beets, the smaller the better. Large beets – over two inches in diameter – may be tough and woodsy, whereas smaller beets are usually sweeter and more tender. Avoid beets that are shriveled or have bruises or soft spots, as that may indicate that they have been stored for too long. If you can find beets that have the stems and leaves attached, look for greens that are fresh and vibrant. The leaves and stems are completely edible, delicious and impressively nutritious in their own right.
How to store beets
If you find beets with the leaves attached, cut off the stems and leaves from the root, leaving about two inches of stem above the root bulb. Wrap the stems and leaves in paper towels and place in plastic bags. The leaves will last for three to four days in the refrigerator. Store the roots in a separate plastic storage bag in the refrigerator. The roots, given their hardy nature, will stay good for one to two weeks.
How to use beets
Roast: Seal scrubbed beet roots in a foil pouch and roast at 400 degrees F for about an hour or until a paring knife can be inserted with little resistance. Use the roasted beets in many ways, including:
Salads: Try tossing roasted beets, orange segments, braised kale and red onion in a citrus vinaigrette. Or skip the roasting altogether and grate raw, peeled beets and toss with walnuts, goat cheese and a little fresh tarragon in a mustard vinaigrette (see full recipe below).
Soup: For an impressive and nutrient-packed starter, puree roasted beets with sautéed onions, grated ginger and a dash of Chinese five-spice powder. Top with a little Greek yogurt or crème fraiche.
Pasta: It sounds crazy, but beets are fantastic in pasta dishes as well. For an exciting twist on an old favorite, try making this beet risotto or layer them into a white lasagna.
Beet greens: If you have the greens, use ’em! Sauté them as you would any other leafy green. They are mild and tender and can be used in place of vegetables such as spinach or chard. Just be warned that they turn everything they touch a bright magenta color – so have fun, be creative, and wear dark colored clothes!
Raw beet, walnut and goat cheese salad recipe
Raw beets are not only packed with nutrients, but they are also delightfully sweet and crunchy. An acidic dressing, such as this one, balances out the sweetness of the beets and cuts through the richness of the goat cheese.
- 1 pound beets
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Generous pinch of salt
- Few grinds of black pepper
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, minced
- 3 ounces fresh goat cheese
- Combine the minced shallot in a small bowl with the red wine vinegar. Allow to marinate while you prepare the beets.
- Peel raw beets using a carrot peeler. Shred using the shredding blade on your food processor, or by pulsing a few time in the bowl. Alternatively, you can grate the beets by using a hand-held box grater.
- Continue making the dressing by whisking in the mustard and olive oil into the vinegar and shallot mixture. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Toss shredded beets, walnuts and herbs in the dressing and adjust seasoning. Top with crumbled goat cheese.