Beets present a flavorful paradox
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Beets present a flavorful paradox

  • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
                                Roasted Beet Salad with Oranges and Almonds

    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

    Roasted Beet Salad with Oranges and Almonds

  • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
                                Spicy Roasted Golden Beets

    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

    Spicy Roasted Golden Beets

Don’t listen to the naysayers. It is perfectly possible for someone who does not like beets to go on and lead a productive life, probably.

A distaste for beets does not absolutely guarantee a dreary existence of loneliness and despair. Why, some people who disdain beets have even gone on to have nearly ordinary lives with some measure of personal fulfillment and a fleeting hint of happiness.

But really, the surest way to find joy and love is to eat beets.

Beets are full of all sorts of things good for you (vitamin C, fiber, potassium, manganese and more). But more important than that, they taste good.

No, they taste great.

Beets are a paradox. They are earthy, almost “foresty.” But they have the highest sugar content of all vegetables, so they are also sweet. It is this unusual combination of flavors that makes them so versatile.

Puree them into soup, either hot or cold. Serve them roasted or put them into salads.

I have a trio of suggestions, all beginning with roasting the beets, which is the way you’ll probably begin every beet dish, no matter how you’re serving them. The process is simple; it just takes a little time.

My first dish takes full advantage of the classic combination of beets and oranges. It is a simple salad, with beets mixed with a dressing of olive oil and sherry vinegar while they are still warm to absorb the flavors.

The beets are scattered with pieces of orange over a bed of peppery arugula. A dusting of cheese on top and a sprinkling of sliced almonds, and you have a wonderful, light salad.

The combination of sweet flavors, tartness, with the creaminess of the cheese and bite of the arugula is enough to convince even the most partisan naysayers of the worthiness and versatility of beets.

My second dish, roasted golden beets with a touch of chili powder, was even easier. Quartered beets are just tossed with cumin, paprika, salt and a touch of chili powder and roasted on a baking sheet.

Golden beets are a little sweeter even than red beets, and their taste is milder, less earthy.

I went back to red for a beet soup with carrots, because part of the dish’s appeal is its gloriously vibrant color.

It is a vegetable soup — all the beet dishes I made are vegetarian — but the beets somehow make it more than that. You begin by sauteing carrots with onions and leeks, then adding garlic and vegetable stock. Only after the flavors have melded do you mix in the roasted beets.Then it’s all pureed.

The late addition of the beets assures that they are the predominant flavor in the soup, with the aromatics in the background and the carrots providing depth and a hint of sweetness.

Roasted Beet Salad With Oranges and Almonds

From “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook,” by America’s Test Kitchen (2015)

>> Dressing:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap beets individually in foil and place on rimmed baking sheet. Roast until skewer inserted into center meets little resistance (unwrap a beet to test), 45 to 60 minutes.

Remove beets from oven and carefully open foil. When beets are cool enough to handle, carefully rub off skins using paper towel. Slice into bite-size pieces.

Whisk dressing ingredients together in large bowl. Add beets, toss to coat and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Cut away peel and pith from orange and cut fruit into bite-size pieces. Add arugula and orange pieces to beets and gently toss. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Transfer to platter and sprinkle with cheese and almonds. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 207 calories, 12 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 17 mg cholesterol, 6 g protein, 20 g carbohydrate, 13 g sugar, 6 g fiber, 161 mg sodium, 80 mg calcium

Spicy Roasted Golden Beets

Sonnet Lauberth, insonnetskitchen.com

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss beets with oil, spices and salt. Transfer to a baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 195 calories, 8 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 5 g protein, 29 g carbohydrate, 21 g sugar, 9 g fiber, 358 mg sodium, 51 mg calcium

Beet and Carrot Soup

Adapted from “Vegetarian Cooking,” by the Culinary Institute of America (2012)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Rub the beets with a little olive oil and salt, and wrap in foil. Roast until tender when pierced, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Open the foil and let rest until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add carrots and cook until soft and light golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes.

Add onions and leeks; cover and sweat until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes more. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth and thyme.

Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer about 20 minutes. Remove thyme.

Peel and coarsely chop beets. Stir them into the soup. Working in batches if necessary, transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Or blend in the pot with an immersion blender until smooth.

Serve hot or cold, garnished with crumbled feta and a sprinkling of cilantro. Serves 6.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 109 calories, 5 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 2 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate, 7 g sugar, 3 g fiber, 624 mg sodium, 48 mg calcium

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