Beets, please.


three kinds of beets photo by lsimon

Aren’t they lovely? I have been enjoying this photo of beets from our garden for a few months now, and I wanted to share it. Last year we grew red, Chioggia, and golden beets. A full packet of seeds for each variety. We love beets, but that is a lot of beets.

We introduced our neighbors to beets, and they liked them. I hope you like them too.

This year we found a packet of mixed seeds. The varieties were not named. They were long and skinny red ones, round red ones, bright red ones, and goldens.

The deep red ones cook up the same rich color. By themselves, the bright red ones turn grayish pink (yuck). They take on the dark red color when cooked in liquid with dark beets though. The goldens are beautiful on their own, or with a blush if roasted next to the reds.

Usually, I can only buy the dark red round beets in the grocery store. And they are very good quality.

Storing fresh beets

The very small beet leaves you see in mixed salad greens are harvested before the root develops.

The greens you get with beetroot are too strong flavored and tough for my liking. Cut off the tops, leaving a few inches of the stems intact. Compost the greens if you are able. 

Store roots in a plastic bag in the veggie drawer of your fridge. They will keep for a few weeks.

What to do with beets?

With a laugh, and the wave of her hand, my mother-in-law would say, “throw them away.” I say, no way.

Most often, we roast or pressure cook them. Then serve them warm or cold, plain or dressed. We cook extra, keep in the fridge, and serve for up to a week.

I have also grated them fresh on a salad. Tasty, crunchy, and very messy.

Simple Roasted Beets

Scrub the beets, leave the stem ends on, and do not peel. Put in an oven safe pan. Add about 1 cup of water and cover with foil. Cook in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes to an hour.

Small, young beets take less time. “Mature” beets take longer to soften up. Pierce the beets to the middle to make sure they are tender.

When they are tender through and through, cool them enough to handle. Slip the skins off the beets. Cut into wedges, or slices, or dice.

Pressure cooked beets

In the hot summer, I like to quickly cook beets in a pressure cooker rather than heating up the oven for an hour. Start out the same as for roasted beets. Scrub the beets, leave the stem ends on, and do not peel.

Put beets into a pressure cooker, add 1/2 to 1 cup water. Bring to pressure and cook for 10-15 minutes. Here, again, the size and age of the beets will effect how long it takes to tenderize them.

Cool cooker and release pressure. Check for tenderness. If needed, cover again, bring to pressure and cook longer. When done, drain off the water. Cool the beets and proceed as for roasted beets.

Enjoy a fall or winter salad

Layer salad greens, cooked beets, refreshing mandarin oranges, sliced sweet onions, and chopped walnuts. Top with Orange Mustard Vinaigrette.

Or try greens, golden beets, dried cranberries, sliced red onions, pecans and Crystal Dressing.

Nutritionally speaking

See the World’s Healthiest Foods site for all the goodness in beets. P.S. They are loaded with folate.

What do you do with beets?

V is for Vinaigrette

Vinaigrette, a sauce made with vinegar. And often with oil, but not always. Wait a minute, is vinegar gluten free?

Mostly, yes.

vinegar (4a)

orange-vinaigrette  peanut-butter-vinaigrette and crystal-vinaigrette photo by vsimon

Distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and white rice vinegar are commonly available in the U.S. and gluten free.

Malt vinegar is made from barely, not distilled, and is not gluten free.

Tricia Thompson thoroughly reviews vinegar and gluten on her Living Gluten Free blog.

Vinegar Nutrition Science

Vinegar has two notable nutritional properties.

#1. Numerous scientific studies have shown that eating vinegar with high carbohydrate meals lowers blood sugar and insulin response after the meal.

So many gluten free products are loaded with highly refined starches. Switching to whole grains helps improve blood sugar. Maybe you have noticed that recipes posted here are likely to be whole grain. Simply adding vinegar to a meal also helps.

#2. You will feel full longer after a meal that contains vinegar. This can be important if you are trying to watch your weight and eat less.

Kinds of vinegar

Rice vinegar has the mildest flavor. You can buy it plain or seasoned. Sugar and salt are added to the seasoned variety. Plain white rice vinegar is the most useful, you can add sugar and salt as needed.

Golden hued apple cider vinegar tastes slight fruity.

Clear distilled white vinegar is a bit harsher in flavor, and is super inexpensive. The lack of color makes it versatile and other ingredients can mellow the flavor.

There are other vinegars worth trying too. Balsamic is dark, sweet and syrupy. Sherry vinegar is complex and potent, a little goes a long way. Both of these can be expensive, but worth it. Bottles of each are waiting in my fridge right now, to be splashed on garden veggies or to perk up a pan sauce.

Today we have three easy vinaigrettes to suit every taste. You can pass on the readymade stuff in the store. These take only minutes to make and cost just pennies. Adjust the recipes to your tastes. Feel free to substitute rice vinegar in any recipe where you want mild flavor. Or add more vinegar for a puckery zip.

Crystal Dressing

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar, Splenda or honey

¼ cup canola oil or walnut oil

In a small bowl, mix rice vinegar and sweetener. Allow to sit for a few minutes so the sugar (if using) can dissolve. Add the oil and stir briskly. This is really a treat with walnut oil if you can get it.

We originally used this with spinach salad that included berries, toasted whole almonds, and creamy goat cheese. We had a client who loved it so much he put it on everything, really everything. Maybe that is a bit much, but it does add a sodium free sweet-sour punch to salads, grains and veggies.

Orange Mustard Salad Dressing

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home by Deborah Madison

1/3 cup orange juice concentrate

3-4 tablespoons vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

Mix it up. You can add oil if you like more calories.

There is always a supply of OJ concentrate in our freezer. It is easy to scoop out only what you need, put the lid back on it and tuck it back into the freezer.

Top mixed grain and veggie salads with this bright tangy dressing. For example, add Orange Mustard Salad dressing to a mix of quinoa, sweet yellow pepper, shredded carrot and thin sliced red onions.

Peanut Butter Dressing

¼ cup sugar, Splenda, or honey

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons peanut butter

Mix it up. I like to do this in a mini blender, it is a bit quicker and smoother. If you are doing it by hand, hot water helps the peanut butter mix in.

This also thickens slightly when it is stored in the fridge. Make it ahead and it will be the right temperature and consistency.

Kids (and adults) love this on greens with sliced apples and chopped peanuts.

Do you make your own dressings? Or pickles? Please share your favorite uses for vinegar.