I haven’t always been partial to beets, in fact my stance for the first 20 years of my life was that a palate was better served without them (and I wonder where my youngest son Bode gets his food opinions from?!?!). Maybe it was the raw beet juice my mother insisted I have as it was “good for my blood”, because for the majority of my life through young adulthood I equated beets with the taste of earth. And that is not a food experience I was looking for. Things have changed, however, quite a lot. As I got older I made an effort to have at least one slice of beet at a salad buffet and insisted that, “this beet is for my mom”. And over time I came to love these sweet, nutritious blood builders (yes, my mother was right, beets are great for the blood). It also helps that beets are one of my husband Doug’s favorite vegetables; did I really have a choice but to embrace this versatile plant? Thankfully, the earth flavor association has subsided. Come and cook with us!
Red beets get their color from a compound called betacyanin, it’s the compound in the messy juice that stains your hands and clothes and is a potent cancer fighter. Orange varieties, on the other hand, are rich in xanthin, another antioxidant. Beets are a good source of betaine and folate, two nutrients that work synergistically to reduce potentially toxic levels of homocysteine, a naturally occurring amino acid that can be harmful to blood vessels and, thereby, contribute to the development of heart disease, stroke and dementia. Beets are loaded with potassium and magnesium, and even a tiny bit of vitamin C. Unfortunately, beets are high in sugar so they are on the no-no list if you are diabetic.
What’s great about beets is that they are versatile and easy to cook. Beets can be baked, boiled, steamed, and shredded raw to be added to salads and slaws. There are many preparations for these gems, though you can never go wrong with a simple drizzle of good olive oil and sea salt on steamed, sliced cold beets. My personal favorite preparation is definitely not juiced, but rather, as a salad with goat cheese and some fresh baby lettuce. It reminds me of my first years in New York when beets and goat cheese popped up on every respectable restaurant menu in the city. Oh, and if you get beets with leaves still intact, eat them! They are higher in nutritional value than the roots, especially in calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C, so make sure to turn them into a nice side of greens.
As luck would have it, the door bell rang as I sat at my desk writing this post and my two dear friends Karen and Heather came to bring me a bag full of freshly harvested beets from their plentiful garden. I don’t know if it’s their generosity or wit that makes that garden hum, but either way I am blessed for having such good friends. Come and cook with us!
This salad mixes beets and oranges, which are a great combo; if you’re feeling adventurous, add a ripe pear or some cherries to the salad, which will give you even greater variety of color and taste.
1 lb beets, trimmed
2 avocados, sliced
2 navel oranges, peel and pith removed, segmented
2 cups spinach
1 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons balsamic or champagne vinegar
Salt and fresh pepper
Heat oven to 425F.
Place scrubbed beets on a large piece of foil on a baking sheet. They should all be the same size, so you might need to halve the large ones to allow for equal baking time.
Drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil and fold foil around beets crimping the ends to form a packet.
Roast until tender when pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes.
Let cool, remove skin and slice.
Whisk vinegar, orange juice and remaining olive oil.
Drizzle over beets, avocados, oranges and spinach.
Season with salt and pepper.
Top with sunflower seeds and serve.
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