Who hated beets when they were a kid? Raise your hand.
I couldn’t stand them when I was a little mouse. They were either pickled and vinegary or boiled and vinegary. Either way, they were just all-around icky. (And, did I mention…vinegary?) They were *almost* as bad as saurkraut. Not quite. But almost.
The only thing that was remotely cool about beets was the vibrant pink color that they would stain anything they touched.
I tried my first beet as an adult the same way I tried a lot of things I now love: to be polite at a dinner party. And don’tcha know, I couldn’t stop eating them. How could this be the same vegetable that I knew…and hated?
Much like Brussels sprouts, I learned, beets become mellow and earthy—and downright delightful—when prepared the right way.
For this dish, I cooked my beets using Alice Waters’ basic method (minus the vinegar): In the oven with a little water, tightly covered. When they’re done, their skins slip right off. The beets are remarkably tender, and have a deep and subtle sweetness.
I dressed them with a simple orange vinaigrette that doesn’t overpower the flavor of the beets.
This article demonstrates the basic cooking method for the beets, as well as how to make the dressing. I like to serve them warm, but this is also really good if you chill the beets first.
Tips for buying beets
+Look for beets that are firm fleshed with smooth skin.
+Generally, the smaller the beet, the sweeter and more tender it will be.
+If the beet greens are attached, cut the greens off and reserve. If you leave the leaves on, they can suck moisture out of the beet.
+Beet greens should be vibrant and crisp looking. Cut them off about an inch or so from the beet. Saute them quickly until wilted and serve as a side.
I used a combination of golden and red beets.
A note about beet juice
Beet juice is gloriously vivid, bright, staining stuff.
If you’re not careful, it’ll get under your nails, on your skin, and on your clothes. Be extra careful, and wear rubber gloves and an apron, etc., if you’re concerned about it.
If you’re combining different types of beets, like I did, be aware that the deep red will bleed into the water in the roasting pan and stain the bottoms of the golden beets. I didn’t mind this this time (I actually think it’s kind of pretty), but to avoid this, simply roast each color beet in its own pan.
Warm Beet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
3 golden beets
3 red beets
2 Tbls. olive oil
2 Tbls. orange juice
1/4 of a clove of garlic, mashed
chives, chopped, for garnish
Serves 4 as a side.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Warm Beet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette: Scrub the beets
Start with your beets. If the greens are attached, trim them off, leaving an inch or two of stem on the beet, and reserve for another use.
They’re generally pretty dirty, so give them a good scrubbing under cold water.
Warm Beet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette: Bake & cool the beets
Put the beets in a large baking dish. Don’t cut them or peel them. Toss them in the pan just as they are.
Fill with about a quarter-inch of cold water.
Cover the pan tightly with foil. You want to create a decent seal that will keep steam in.
Pop the pan into your preheated oven. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the beets are fork tender. Final baking time will depend on the size of your beets.
After about an hour or so, yank the pan out of the oven.
Test the beets to see if they’re cooked. Stick a fork or paring knife into the largest one. If it goes in easily, they should be done.
(If not, cover the pan back up and stick them in the oven for another few minutes, then retest.) A cooked beet should feel kind of like a cooked potato when you poke it like this.
When your beets are cooked, transfer them to a plate to cool. You want them to be cool enough to touch comfortably.
Warm Beet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette: Skin, slice, and dress the beets
When the beets are cool, rub a finger or thumb across the beet’s skin and it should slip right off, like this:
Skin your beets just like this. (Wear gloves if you’re concerned about staining your hands.)
When the beets are skinned, cut the tops and bottoms off.
Set the beets aside on a plate.
(Again, if you’re concerned about the red beets bleeding color onto the golden beets, don’t let them touch.)
Slice the beets in half, then in wedges, like this:
Arrange the beet wedges on your serving plate.
Again, I do them on a plate instead of a bowl to avoid staining the golden beets. (I like the outer reddish blush they got in the roasting pan, but wanted to keep it to that.)
Warm Beet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette: Make the vinaigrette
Now, this isn’t a *true* vinaigrette, because it doesn’t contain any vinegar. I used orange juice for my acid instead of vinegar.
Put the olive oil, orange juice, and garlic in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk to combine. Give it a taste and toss in a little kosher salt. (And a little freshly cracked black pepper, if you like.) Chop up your chives.
Drizzle the vinaigrette over the beets, getting a little on each beet.
Garnish with chopped chives.