Too often vegetables are assigned second-class status on the dinner plate, despite constant reminders that they are good for you.
If vegetables in general are second class, beets are a much maligned vegetable that probably comes out third class or lower. Is it because of the color? It is not a green vegetable nor is it as light and sweet and orange as squash. Is it because it isn’t eaten raw as part of a relish plate? Is it because fresh beets take longer to cook than some other kinds of vegetables?
Beets provide an attractive red accent to the dinner plate, and they can be tasty if prepared properly. If boiled beets just aren’t your dish of choice, try some different recipes. You may find a hit on the list.
Beets lend themselves to boiling, stir-fry (sauteed), braising, stewing or even baking. Speed up the cooking process in a microwave or pressure cooker or purchase canned beets. Beets are a rewarding crop for home gardeners because they grow readily in a wide array of soil types and they develop quickly. The greens can be plucked for use in salads or tiny beets can be harvested as for the same purpose when the crop is thinned. They continue to grow for the entire summer, but don’t leave them that long. Big-as-softball-beets are tough. The ideal size for tender tasty beets is just a little bigger than golf balls.
The ideal fresh beet is small to medium sized, round, firm and smooth with a slender tap root. Flesh should be deep red (with the exception of some new golden varieties) and free from cracks. If greens are attached, they should be crisp and fresh looking.
Store them unwashed in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator or crisper for up to a week. If the greens are cut down to about an inch from the top of the beet, the beets will last longer. In the fall, they can also be placed in cellar storage in sand or sawdust for several weeks.
Prepare beets for cooking by scrubbing gently to avoid breaking surface skin. Do not peel. Leave the tap root on until after they are cooked. Cook beets in the skins until they are fork tender — about as long as a potato.
Cool by putting the cooked beets into cold water. Skins slide off easily. Slice, dice, julienne or use whole. At this point, they can be prepared for serving, placed in air-tight freezer containers and frozen for later use, or bottled.
Because they are not an acid food, beets must be pressure-canned for safe storage unless you make pickled beets using a safe, USDA approved recipe. There are some tested beet jelly and jam recipes in some pectin boxes that call for enough acid to offset the low-acid qualities of beets.
Grated Herbed Stir-fry beets
4 medium beets
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
Chopped fresh chervil, dill, or parsley
Fresh lemon juice
Wash, peel and coarsely grate beets. Melt butter in skillet, add beets and stir them. Sprinkle with lemon juice, cover and cook over medium to medium low heat approximately 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. When tender, sprinkle with choice of herbs.
I am reprinting this beet cake recipe from some time back. The beets are there, but no one will know it when you serve this cake.
Chocolate Beet Cake
1 can beets (16-ounce) pureed with liquid (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Puree beets with liquid in can. Set aside
Cream sugar, oil and eggs together. Fold in dry ingredients then vanila. Fold in beet mixture. Pour in lightly greased 9 by 13 inch pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool and frost.
Beets and Greens Salad
6 to 8 medium beets (cooked and cooled)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 large head leaf or romain lettuce, well-chilled
1/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, mashed
Cut cooked beets in julienne strips. Mix with green onions and lettuce. Whirl dressing ingredients in blender or food processor or shake in jar
Pour over salad and toss
Beet Gelatin Salad
3 3-ounce packages cherry gelatin
1 can shredded beets
1 can crushed pineapple
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups boiling water
Drain beets and pineapple. Add water and lemon juice to make 3 1/2 cups liquid. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water and chill until syrupy and add juice. Mold in ring mold and chill until solid. Unmold and spread with sour cream before serving.