After yesterday’s “meat orgy” post, I thought I should talk about vegetables today. You know, just to balance things out a bit.
Besides, these beets were one of the vegetable side dishes we had with those decadent steaks, and they were so refreshing with the beef, I figured I should share them here.
And, besides all of that, the beets were miraculous, because Kat tried one and loved it. That’s a big thing for a four year old. I’d have hated it at four, because, believe it or not, beets were one of the few vegetables I could not stand as a child. Nope. Hated them. They tasted like dirt to me. Now they taste earthy and sweet and delicious–and I am happy that Kat doesn’t have to wait until her mid-twenties like I did to figure that out!
Roasting beets is the simplest way to prepare them, and is the best way to retain their brilliant, stained-glass colors. All you do is preheat your oven at 350 degrees F. and then scrub the living heck out of your beets with a vegetable brush, slice the beet tops off as close to the beet as possible, then pull off the root hair business. Then, just rub them well with good olive oil (not your best olive oil, just good olive oil), drizzle some extra olive oil in the bottom of a small casserole dish and plop the beets in there, then slide them into the oven.
Then, wait until they are tender all the way through. Test with a table fork–not a sharp meat fork–a table fork. If the tines sink in with the same basic resistance they would get from barely room temperature butter–then voila! The beets are perfect.
I can’t tell you how long this cooking process will take because I don’t know how big your beets are. With medium small ones–a bit bigger than a golf ball–like I cooked here, they’ll usually take about forty-five minutes. Big baseball sized beets will take longer.
Now comes the hard part. Well, it isn’t hard, just a little messy.
Peeling the beets.
You will note that there are no pictures of me peeling these beets. There is a reason for that–when I do process photos for my recipes, I do them myself, usually while I’m in the middle of whatever technique it is I am trying to illustrate.
Well, peeling roasted beets requires disposable gloves and a paring knife and lots of slippery bright magenta or orange beet juice, and you know, adding a camera to that mix is just not a grand idea. I can just imagine me getting beet juice and olive oil all over the camera and having the thing slip right out of one hand while I’m peeling with the other and toppling lens-first right into the bowl of peeled beets, resulting in both a ruined camera and ruined beets.
So, take my word for it–just put on gloves, put the camera down and get to work peeling those beets. You’ll need a paring knife at least to get started with the beets, and nimble fingers. And patience–yes, patience.
All you do is let the beets cool just enough so you can touch them. Their skins will be wrinkly and in part will be standing out from the flesh of the beets. Pick a spot where the skin is sticking out from the beet, pierce that section with your paring knife, slice off a strip of skin and then peel off the skin with your fingers. Continue until the beet is completely peeled, cutting off the very tip of the root. Then repeat on your other beets as necessary.
Finally, cut the beets into whatever shapes and sizes you want. For this recipe, I cut them in half and then cut them into 1/4″ half-moon shaped slices. But if you had gigantic beets, you could just as easily dice them and it would be equally pretty when done.
Then, make the vinaigrette. I cheat and put the ingredients into a small jar and shake it like mad to emulsify it, but you can be a proper kitchen maven and use a bowl and whisk. I just like shaking it better. (I’m like James Bond–I like it shaken, not stirred. Actually, I hate martinis, but I digress.)
When the vinaigrette is shaken or whisked, however you like it–put your beets in a bowl and pour the dressing on and toss. That’s it–simple.
You can serve them warm, at room temperature or cold. You can serve them as they are or do what I did and plop them on top of a salad made of mixed greens, purple carrots, yellow carrots, red radishes, pepitas and chevre. If you do it on a salad, make a little extra dressing to pour over the salad as well.
Oh, and the vinaigrette–I made mine with about two tablespoons of freshly chopped Genovese basil leaves–though lemon basil leaves would rock too–local wildflower honey, a pinch of salt, a pinch of Aleppo pepper, Meyer lemon infused olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. This combination is very fresh and somewhat floral in flavor which complements the sweetness of the beets perfectly without making them sour or biting in any way. (If you don’t have lemon infused olive oil, you can infuse lemon zest in your own olive oil overnight and then use it. It won’t taste Meyer lemony–unless you use a Meyer lemon–but it will taste plenty lemony and good.)
I’m thinking of adding some thin red onion slices that have been soaked in water for an hour, then drained and rinsed to the beets when they are being tossed with the dressing next time. I think that they will add a lovely crunch and tang without the overpowering onion taste that unsoaked onions have. And, instead of basil for that version, I think I might use cilantro in the dressing…..we’ll see. Let me know if you come up with any variations.
Roasted Beets With Basil Honey Lemon Vinaigrette
Enough beets roasted, peeled and sliced as instructed above to make 2 cups sliced beets
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons wildflower honey (or to taste, depending on the acidity of your lemon juice)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup Meyer lemon or plain extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt and Aleppo (or black) pepper, or to taste
Whisk together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette, or be lazy like me and put them all into a jar and shake vigorously, until the dressing emulsifies into a thin yellow liquid. Taste for seasoning and flavor balance and adjust as needed.
Pour over the beets and toss well. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold. Serve over a salad or as is–but do serve it, as it is wonderful.
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