On Saturday at the Kentland's Farmers' Market, I picked up lots of apple varieties and the last two lonely bunches of beets. I wanted more, but we got there late and some other beet lover had grabbed the rest.
Ah well, they're easy to come by at MOM's Organic Market (one of their staff emailed to tell me of their name change – thank you!) or Whole Foods.
You may be one of those who thinks beets are pretty nasty. I'd bet you've only ever had them canned, which taste like . . . well, like any other canned vegetable — not anywhere near as good as fresh!
But I encourage you to try roasting fresh beets before giving up on them forever. Buy a few bunches of very fresh beets of any and all colors.
For example, the gold ones won't turn your fingers red, and they taste exceptionally sweet. Children love the white rings in the Chioggia variety. I tell kids they're candy cane beets; that seems to make them taste even better!
Since you're going to be roasting them, the size of the beet isn't so important. Beets 2-3 inches in size tend to be the most tender, but the huge ones are easier to hold on to while you're scrubbing and will become quite soft when roasted.
Cut off the green tops before putting the beets in the fridge. Put them in a glass with some water and store them in the fridge as well. They'll keep for a few days. Wash them well and sauté them with a little oil, salt and pepper, and garlic.
When you prepare beets, wear an apron or cook naked. You're going to get beet juice on yourself no matter how careful you are.
Scrub the beets thoroughly with a sturdy vegetable brush. There is no need to peel smaller beets at all if you scrub them well. With the larger ones, you may have to pare off some tough spots around the root and stem.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cut off the stems and the little dangly root part, then cut your beets into about 1½-inch chunks, throw them in a bowl, toss them with enough garlic olive oil to coat, coarse ground pepper and a teaspoon or so of Kosher salt. If you only have table salt, use a ½ teaspoon.
Spray cooking spray on a cookie sheet with sides, dump your beets on the sheet, spread them out, and put 'em in the oven for 30 to 50 minutes. Make sure they're not piled on top of each other, or they'll steam instead of roast.
After 30 minutes, poke the largest pieces with a fork. If they're tender, they're ready. If not, let them bake until they are quite tender. This will feed one beet lover or possibly two, should the second party get home in time.
If you are remarkably self-disciplined, you can save the beets to toss into a salad with your beet greens, baby greens, goat cheese and toasted walnuts. This vinaigrette made with orange juice and maple syrup is remarkable on beet salad.
2 T real maple syrup, Grade B
1 T grainy mustard
1/4 cup orange or tangerine juice (not from concentrate)
2 scant tablespoons high-quality balsamic or sherry vinegar
2 T olive or grapeseed oil
1/4 tsp. salt AND pepper
In a small bowl, whisk syrup and mustard together until well combined. Whisk in juice, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add oil slowly, whisk until emulsified (just a minute or so), pour on salad and serve immediately.
This is one of those Thanksgiving salads that actually gets eaten!
Look for more Thanksgiving recipe ideas in this column in the next two weeks.