Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Wonderful, Humble Beet: the perfect happy hour appetizer

The humble beet.  So vibrant, and yet, so beet-y.  But these gorgeous crimson beets, and those in golden and rainbow hues, pack nutritional benefit.  Not surprisingly, that bright crimson pigment (called betacyanin) signifies the presence of antioxidant power.  Oh, antioxidants -- such beauty, such strength -- you have it all, don't you?  (Read more about the benefits of beets here.)

And I discovered recently that beets don't need much to shine.  Plus, they make an excellent happy hour appetizer when paired with a glass of lovely white wine.  So dress up your plate of sliced, roasted beets with champagne vinegar and olive oil and indulge.  (And feel free to use your fingers.)  Behold:

Roasting beets is easy, it just takes time.  But the good news is that you don't have to stand over the stove stirring, you can just pop 'em in the oven, and an hour or so later, they're ready to go.

The traditional way of roasting beets is to drizzle them with olive oil, wrap them in foil, and then bake for an hour or so until tender.  Here's a recipe on for basic roasted beets.  There's another method I tried to roast my beets, from David Tanis' gorgeous cookbook A Platter of Figs and other recipes.  (A fantastic, beautiful book that is worth adding to your cookbook library, in my opinion.)  Tanis suggests baking washed, unpeeled beets in a roasting pan with about an inch of water in it at 350 degrees for about an hour, until the beets are easily pierced by a fork.

I liked this aluminum-foil free method, but did find that after an hour, the halves of the beets that were in the water were soft, but the dry sides weren't.  So I flipped them over and baked for another 30-40 minutes.  So I can't guarantee a method here, but fear not.  They're just beets, and eventually they'll get nice and soft as they roast.  Pick whichever method you like better.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel the skins off, and then slice thinly.  Drizzle liberally with champagne vinegar, extra virgin olive oil (a nice fruity one, the best you've got), a dash of kosher salt and a few grinds of the pepper grinder.  If you've got some fresh parsley, sprinkle on top, but if not, no worries.  Taste and adjust as you like.  I like mine loaded with vinegar, but you may like it milder.  Also, these would be great with that simple vinaigrette where you add some shallots (optional) and a nice teaspoon of dijon mustard to the oil and vinegar.  (See orzo and spinach salad recipe.)

As I said, these are dynamite with a glass of white wine, and with those crimson colors, you'll feel like you're eating and drinking the sunset.  Glorious.


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