Thursday, July 17, 2008

Beets, beets, beets.

I've been remiss - beet season is in full swing, and I have not written a single word about them. Here's the skinny: we should all eat one a day - they are that good for you. Beets come in such warm colors - deep wine red, garnet, orange, golden yellow and buttery ivory. The lighter colors have a less intense beet flavor, and are less nutritious and juicy. And don't overlook the leaves - they can (and should) also be eaten, as they are packed with nutrition (the leaves more so than the roots).

Beets are very high in folate, manganese and potassium. They also have lots of fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, tryptophan, iron, copper and phosphorus, and possess very strong cancer-fighting qualities. Traditionally, beets were used to purify and rebuild blood and to cleanse the liver. Beets are known for the prevention of coronary and cerebral artery diseases, treatment of bladder and kidney stones, lowering of LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure, and the reduction of inflammation. And if you eat enough, for no extra charge, you may even pee pink or red - an endless source of amusement for kids (especially mine). This is called beeturia and is completely harmless.

Beets have a synergistic relationship with carrots, and as such, the two vegetables are frequently used together to detoxify and heal degenerative illness.

To prepare: don't peel beets before you cook them; you'll preserve more nutrients and the skin slips off very easily after they are cooked. I prefer steaming or roasting beets - heat harms the anti-cancer activity so low-heat cooking is best. Try them raw or pickled for the full health benefits and crunchy texture (look for my upcoming newsletter on lacto-fermented foods and recipes). To remove stains from your hands, rub them with a slice of lemon.

This year I've been getting my beets from Yuno's and Norwich Meadow Farms. The roots are firm and juicy, and the leaves are consistently fresh, bright and crisp. They have good texture and a luscious, sweet flavor.



Ingredients for almond butter:
1/2 cup toasted Marcona almonds
1/2 garlic clove, chopped
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 to 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

To make almond butter:
Grind almonds to a paste with garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cayenne in a food processor. With motor running, add just enough oil to make a silky paste. Season with salt.

Ingredients for beet salad:
1 1/2 lb small (2-inch) beets without greens (2 lb with greens)
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

To make beet salad:
- Simmer beets in 3 inches of water in a large saucepan, covered, until tender, about 30 minutes.
- Cool in liquid, uncovered, about 30 minutes, then peel and cut into 1/2-inch wedges.
- Whisk together vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then whisk in oil. Add shallot and chives and toss with beets.
- Pool some almond butter and top with beet salad.

Modified from a recipe I found in Gourmet magazine.

This is how Sasha, my three-year-old, likes them best. He calls them his treats.

8 beets, washed
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons of e.v. olive oil
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt to taste

- Place beets in a covered baking pan, sprinkle with olive oil and bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until tender; cool.
- Remove beets from oven, peel and slice.
- Combine beets, oil, maple syrup, nutmeg and seasoning in a baking dish.
- Bake in moderate oven for about 15 minutes


3 pounds bone-in beef shank
3 medium beets, peeled and shredded
3 carrots, peeled and shredded
3 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon e.v olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
6 cups water
1/2 medium head cabbage, cored and shredded
1 (8 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream, for topping
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill and more for garnish

- In a large pot over medium heat, brown beef in oil. Stir in onion and water, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 2 hours, until meat is tender.
- In a separate pan heat the tomato paste and dilute with some beef broth, add into soup pot.
- Add the beets, and cook until almost done.
- Add the carrots and potatoes, cabbage, can of diced tomatoes, garlic, dill, salt and pepper and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Ladle into serving bowls, and garnish with sour cream and fresh dill.


12 fresh beets, trimmed
6 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1/3 cup tarragon vinegar
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon raw honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup minced chives

- Place beets in a covered baking pan, sprinkle with olive oil and bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until tender; cool. Peel and cut beets into thin slices.
- Place carrots in a steamer basket; place in a saucepan over 1 in. of water. Bring to a boil; cover and steam for 6-8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Allow to cool and slice.
- Toss beets, carrots and shallots in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, mint, oil, honey, salt and pepper; drizzle over vegetables.
- Dot with crumbled cheese and sprinkle with chives.

1 comment:

Meredith S. said...

My family has been making borscht for as long as I can remember and probably many years before that...and we make it with meat, similar to the recipe you describe. Its wonderful to see someone else promoting borscht. I adore beets and I've been making stir fries with beet greens and then roasting the beets and adding them to salads with goat cheese. I really appreciate your post.