The beet is often relegated to the Thanksgiving table in America, where children conveniently push the unfortunate pickled relish to the side of their plate to focus on the turkey and gravy instead. It’s unfortunate that the beet has such a bad reputation since this highly flavorful root vegetable is packed with antioxidants, magnesium, and fiber and when roasted correctly, adds rich, earthy flavor to a recipe.
The beet originated in the Mediterranean and up until the nineteenth century, when French chefs realized the flavor and color virtues of the root bulb itself, it was the leafy greens that were consumed by ancient European civilizations. The Romans relegated the beet bulb to the medicine cabinet and also believed it incited amorous emotions.
Today, beets are dehydrated and ground into colorful powders that are used to tint bacon, ice cream, and even canned tomato sauce. And due to their high sugar content, beets are also valued as a sweetener with sugar beets supplying the world with thirty percent of its sugar. Beet juice is also used in some cultures as makeup to tint the cheeks and lips with a rosy hue.
Beets come in a vibrant array of colors from deep ruby, gold, white, and even candy striped. When roasted properly, these healthy flavor bombs are sure to find a prominent place on your kitchen table and will come to be seen as more than a dreaded Thanksgiving garnish.
Here’s how to roast your beets:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- To prepare the beets, first cut off the leaves and their stems with a chef’s knife. Leave about two inches of stem attached to the beet. This makes an ideal handle once the beet is ready to be peeled after the roasting process is complete.
- Reserve the greens for another use. They are lovely when braised, sauteed in olive oil and then drizzled with balsamic and sprinkled with crunchy sea salt, or served in a salad. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to two days once they are removed from the beet.
- Rinse the beets under cold running water to remove residue and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Place the beets in a large bowl. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss the beets until they are glistening with oil.
- Wrap each beet individually in a double layer of aluminum foil. Be sure they are wrapped securely and completely to prevent dripping. Beets the size of a golf ball or smaller can be wrapped together but larger beets should be wrapped separately.
- Roast the beets on a sheet tray for between 55 to 70 minutes. The sheet tray ensures that your oven will remain clean should dripping occur.
- Smaller beets will cook more quickly. Check for doneness after 45 minutes by poking the beets with a skewer or a fork. If they are tender, remove from the oven using a pair of tongs. Check each beet individually because they will have different cooking times depending upon their size.
- Once the beets are cool enough to handle but still warm, discard the foil and peel by holding the stem handle in one hand and a double layer of paper towels in the other. The peeling should slide off easily as long as the beets are still warm.
- Beets will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
And here’s how to eat them:
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— Head photo: flickr (Rod Waddington).