Bringing Beets to the Table

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What To Do With A Bounty Of Beautiful Beets

Our beets are doing very well this year and we are happily adding them to soups and pastas. I especially love beets in hot or chilled summer salads and recently enjoyed handmade ravioli stuffed with a pesto made of smoked beets and pine nuts that tasted ambrosial.

Since my larger garden is overrun with deer, I grow my beets in containers on my deck, huge tree pots that hold several cubic feet of soil blended with mature compost and top dressed with composted dairy manure. A surprising array of vegetables produce quite well in them, from greens of all kinds to onions and leeks, carrots, beets, peas and potatoes.

Better Beet Greens

One of my favorite ways to enjoy beets is in a hot salad with beet greens and new potatoes, dressed with a classic vinaigrette. I also sizzle them briefly in olive oil with garlic and rosemary or thyme, or steam them and serve them with a squeeze of fresh citrus juice (all sorts, from oranges or tangerines to lemons or limes).

Avoid stringy, tough beet greens by harvest when the leaves are about the size of a soup spoon. Pick outer leaves first, and leave plenty behind for future growth. The youngest leaves are delicious raw, but as the beetroots swell, the leaves grow thicker and need gentle cooking to be at their most tasty. When you harvest beets, toss any elderly, leathery ones on the compost heap and bring only the youngest, most tender leaves to the kitchen.

Keeping Color Where It Belongs

Beets are famous for staining clothing and indeed, beet skins of any color make a vivid golden dye. Unless the dye is used on fabric that has been treated with a mordant to make the color fast, the richness of the color will be fleeting, though a faded stain may remain for years.  Beet dye can even stain enamel, so only cook whole, unpeeled  beets with several inches of stem still attached when using enameled cookware.

Since beet cooking water seems to have a remarkable ability to leap from the pot to stain clothing, wear an old shirt or large apron during kitchen prep. Beets stains on table linens, towels, and clothing can (sometimes) be removed by applying a thick paste of moist salt and baking soda as soon as possible. To remove beet stains from your hands, rub them with coarse salt and lemon juice.

Grilled Salmon with Beets

Handsome and flavorful, Grilled Salmon With Beet & Orange Salsa is lively with fresh citrus juices and smoky ancho chiles. The simple beet salsa is also great with roasted vegetables.

Grilled Salmon With Beet & Orange Salsa

1 teaspoon virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon thyme, stemmed
1 teaspoon rosemary, stemmed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 cups cooked beets, diced
1 red sweet pepper, chopped
2 organic oranges, sectioned and peeled
1 organic orange, juiced, rind grated
1 organic lime, juiced
2-4 tablespoons ancho chiles, chopped

Preheat oven broiler or start coals in grill. In a bowl, combine oil, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, thyme, rosemary and pepper. Rinse fish, pat dry and rub with herbed oil mixture, set aside. In a bowl, gently toss the red onion, beets, red pepper, orange sections and cilantro with the orange juice, grated rind, lime juice, ancho chiles, and remaining salt, set aside.  Grill or broil fish until opaque (10-12 minutes). Cover ˛tightly with foil and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve with beet and orange salsa. Serves 4.

An Elegant Beet Salad

I often make this flavorful, mildly addictive French salad in late summer, as the apple crop comes in. I especially love this made with crunchy Honeycrisp apples, though it’s also very good made with Braeburns or Granny Smiths.

French Beet Salad

1 organic lemon, juiced, rind grated
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch flat Italian parsley, stemmed
1 cup walnut halves, toasted
1 1/2 cups cooked beets, diced
3 crisp apples, cored, pared and diced

In a jar, combine 1 teaspoon lemon rind, the vinegar, oil, mustard, salt, and pepper. Cover tightly, shake well to emulsify and set aside. In a serving bowl, toss the apples gently with lemon juice. Add beets and walnuts, toss again with dressing and serve, garnished with parsley. Serves 4-6.

Hot Potato Beet Salad

Cooking the potatoes with garlic, just until tender crisp, helps them hold their shape and texture well. For a hearty main dish, add cooked shrimp or hard boiled eggs.

2 medium beets
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon balsamic or wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons fruity olive oil
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 cup red or sweet onion, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, stemmed and chopped
2 cups beet greens, stemmed and shredded
1/2 cup fresh basil, shredded

In a saucepan, cover beets with water, boil until tender (about 20 minutes), drain, skin and dice. In a saucepan, cover potatoes with water. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and half the garlic, bring to a boil over medium high heat and simmer until tender (8-10 minutes). Drain and put in a serving bowl with diced beets. Sprinkle immediately with vinegar, salt, and pepper, then drizzle with half the olive oil and toss with celery and half the onion. In a wide, shallow pan, combine remaining onion, oil, garlic and thyme over medium high heat and cook for 1 minute. Add beet greens, cover pan and cook until tender (about 3 minutes). Gently toss with potatoes and beets and serve.  Refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 days (flavor gets even better). Serves 4-6.

A Toothsome Twist On Basic Borscht

Spicy Ginger Beet Soup is a tasty takeoff on classic Borscht. Serve this hearty entree with warm oatmeal muffins and a fresh green salad dressed with lemon-garlic dressing to unify the meal.

Ginger Beet Soup

4 beets (about 2 pounds), scrubbed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 organic lemons, juiced, rind grated
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 inches fresh ginger root, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 Walla-Walla Sweet onion, chopped
2 cups ±vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup sour cream (nonfat works fine)

Place beets in a small saucepan and cover with water. Add half the garlic, half the lemon juice and rind, and half the salt. Bring water to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until beets are fork tender (30-40 minutes). Drain beets, straining and reserving the broth. When cool enough to handle, peel beets and coarsely chop them. In a saute or frying pan, heat oil with remaining garlic, ginger, and celery over medium high heat. Cook, stirring, until soft (3-5 minutes). In a blender or food processor, combine beets, garlic-ginger mixture, and onion with 2 cups reserved broth and puree to desired consistency (lumpy or smooth). Add vegetable broth, remaining lemon juice and rind, then season to taste with pepper, starting with 1/8 teaspoon. Serve cold or at room temperature, topped with sour cream. Serves 4.

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