Saturday, November 8th, 2008

Simply Roasted Beets

I've been bringing roasted beets to work for snacks a lot lately. A lot of people have peered over my shoulder and said, "Oh, beets -- how do you cook ...

I’ve been bringing roasted beets to work for snacks a lot lately. A lot of people have peered over my shoulder and said, “Oh, beets — how do you cook them like that?” My first reaction, that of a not-so-helpful home cook-ophile, is usually to say, “How do you not cook them like that?” I don’t mean to sound snobbish here. Obviously, I’m writing this post in response to all these requests. But as long as you’re not simmering them into borscht, or slicing or shredding them finely to serve raw, then the only way I know to bring beets to a palatable form is to roast them. It’s simple, really.

Believe me, up until a few short years ago, I barely knew what beets were. My parents never liked them, so never bought nor cooked them. I’d only encountered the root vegetables as sliced and canned discs at a salad bar for a long time. I didn’t like what I saw there, either. Over time, I got to try fresher cooked beets, and made the not-so-mundane discovery that they were in fact delicious. Their firm, juicy texture is really something to behold, if not their cloyingly purple-staining tendencies (there’s a passage in Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume that indoctrinated me to beets, which begins, “The beet is the most intense of vegetables.”). Rapidly, the brash beet grew on me.

I’m sure I’m not the only one of my generation of new beet-likers who’ve had to figure out how to roast them on my own. But for the rest of those, who’ve only encountered beets already cooked in restaurants, or else in that far inferior canned form, here’s a quick run-through.

First, wash and trim the roots clean of dirt. Expect a gush of red when you snip off the long, spindly top of the beet. Don’t trim the knobby base yet, except for stray hair-like wisps. For goodness’ sake, if your beets came with the leafy tops attached, save those for another use. Beet greens are one of the mildest and most nutritious leafy green to sautee with garlic, or whatever else — like spinach only better. (I once had a cringe attack when I saw a guy at the Greenmarket rip off the greens from the bunch of beets he’d just purchased and toss them into a garbage can.)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Then organize your beets into groups of similar sizes, and wrap them up in twos or threes in tin foil. If there are three or four very little beets, I might bundle them all together. Large beets are best wrapped one or two at a time. When you crumple the foil completely sealed, it locks so that the beets’ juices will steam inside once they’re released. The flavor and sugars in the beets become concentrated, caramelized juices will run onto the inside of the foil wraps; the whole kitchen may begin to smell of burning sugar, or marshmallows.

Keep in mind there is no exact time stamp on how long to roast them, since beets are all differently sized. It just takes a little experience to know how to do things right; this is very beneficial in the case of roasting beets. Check after one hour of roasting at this temperature, removing the foil packages with tongs. When they’re just cool enough to touch, squeeze on each beet to see if the flesh gives a little. If it’s softened, but still somewhat firm, that’s the point I take them out of the oven to cool. How do you know when “somewhat firm” or “softened” is ultimately the right texture for you? By roasting beets yourself once or twice.

Now, unwrap your beets and let them cool off a good ten minutes. The beets’ flesh should have shrunken beneath the loose skins a bit. Trim off the base of each beet with a knife, then slip off the dull, black skin from the glistening orb. If it doesn’t peel away easily, it’s a good sign that your beet hasn’t been cooked enough. Throw it back in the oven for a bit longer, live, and learn.

This recipe is for a simple, chilled roasted beet salad with finely chopped celery and red onion that I made the other day. The other vegetables add a crisp bite and a squeeze of fresh lemon and drizzle of olive oil marries all the juices with a refreshing finish.

Now, eat your purples today!

Roasted Beet Salad with Celery, Onion and Fresh Lemon
(makes 2-3 servings)

4 medium beets, roasted, peeled and sliced into wedges
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss. Cover and chill 30 minutes before serving.

Cost Calculator
(for 2-3 servings)

4 medium beets (at $2.75/bunch with the greens): $2.00
1 celery stalk: $0.25
1/4 cup chopped onion: $0.20
half a lemon: $0.17
olive oil, salt, pepper: $0.20

Total: $2.82

Health Factor

Two brownie points: Even for a salad, it doesn’t get much simpler, and yet more beneficial than this. Beets are nutritional powerhouses, shown to lower blood pressure and help protect against heart disesase and colon cancer. Because it has so much folate (27% of your daily need per 100 grams), which supports tissue growth. studies have also shown it to protect against birth defects. The downturn is that beets do have a good amount of natural sugars, and are surprisingly high in sodium. Best to dress them lightly — or not at all.

Green Factor


Six maple leaves: The dressings and seasonings are the only non-local, non-seasonal ingredients in this salad, as well as a constant thorn in my side when it comes to this “green factor” rating. I’ve got this fruity, floral Greek olive oil now, which I fell in love with at my first dunk in bread at Fairway Market. But, it’s from Greece. And that lemon didn’t grow 100 miles or less from here, either. Celery is actually at the end of its harvest season, but I had a bunch from weeks ago to use up in my fridge.

58 Responses to “Simply Roasted Beets”

  1. Daniel Solis says:

    “Check after one hour of roasting at this temperature…”

    Apologies if I’m blind, but I can’t find where you stated the temperature at which the beets should be roasted.

  2. cathy says:

    Ack, typos, mistakes. No, you’re not blind at all, Daniel, thanks for catching this! I haven’t had my coffee this morning. (I added 425 degrees.)

  3. Enia says:

    Long time reader, first time poster. :)

    You may also want to mention that beet juice is one of the most powerful dyes on the planet so newbies should be careful with them, especially in that “snipping off greens” stage. That stuff is very difficult to get out. So don’t wear your favorite light-colored clothes when working with them, is what I’m saying.

  4. Chrysanthe says:

    True about the color of beets. I grew up in a household that didn’t allow artificial coloring (or flavorings, of course, nor sugar or most conventional products *including* chocolate, but that’s another story) so if we ever had colored frosting, it was beet-induced pink.

  5. k says:

    In the last couple of days (since Wed. or Thurs.), I have decided to “not eat out”. I haven’t told my family, so I don’t know if they have noticed. If they want anything, I buy it, but, don’t eat any of it and prepare something for myself. I bought a journal from the $1.00 store today, to start writing down what I did not buy.(Friday:popcorn at the movies, soda…) I googled “don’t eat out” and your site came up. Your site is great! Thank you for publishing it. Since I am not planning on telling anyone, your site helps.

  6. Chef De Cuisine says:

    “Simply Roasted Beets” A simple snack,with great health factor and also cost too :-)

    Thanks for posting.

    Alice

  7. Lauren says:

    Unlike almost any less intense vegetable, beets are pretty great when boiled as well. (For real!) I’ve found that they taste pretty much the same as when roasted, and take less time (and foil.) Put beets, unpeeled, in about an inch more water than covers them, and boil for 30-50 minutes, or until fork tender. Slip the skins off under running water and Bob is literally your uncle.

  8. Nina says:

    I have to agree with Lauren. Boiled beets are just as great as roasted! I almost forgot that I have some white beets at home from my CSA. Thanks for reminding me… Can’t wait to make them tonight!

  9. J says:

    Yay beets!

    Steamed are good too, but roasted are really special.

    Use the greens in soup as well (turnip greens too!). Or sautee them with garlic and let them cook down into melty goodness, then flavor with the vinegar of your choice.

    Yum!

  10. cathy says:

    Wow, thanks for all the suggestions, everyone! I’ll have to try steaming and boiling them next, but I’m a little afraid to lose all the juices if I boil them — doesn’t the water turn completely blood-red? Creepy.
    K: Best of luck with your adventure!

  11. beth says:

    Yum! I need to make these for my hubby! Do you know how lucky you are to get half a lemon for 17 cents? Actually I have only bought bottled juice because the little stinkers are almost always 99 cents a piece here in Columbus!

  12. JENNIFER RAMOS says:

    WOW your blog is great…! very inspiring especially for the Holidays where i am at a lost for what to make sometimes!! WONDERFUL STUFF.

    Jen Ramos
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  13. Around the Web « Tamarind and Thyme says:

    [...] 15 Nov, 2008 Around the Web Posted by Su-Lin under Food, Links, Misc   Perhaps this recipe from Not Eating Out in NY will finally chase the fear of beetroot out of me. Ugh, overly sweet, blood red root! Also from [...]

  14. K. says:

    Cathy,

    Thanks! It has been great so far, ( dry(:-), quick sandwichs at first for a few days). It is amazing how much money you save or can spend on better foods, other items or NOT AT ALL.

    Keep the posts coming.

    K.

  15. K. says:

    Cathy,

    Over a month has gone by w/o eating out. Although, the other day, I ate a thumb size of a new pizza that my son was trying. My stomach was a little queasy all night. Other than that, it has been fun not eating any restaurant food. The amount of money that I’m not spending is amazing. The food that I fix, is being eaten by everyone. Next, I’ll have to try some of your recipes. During the past week, Rhodes, frozen bread/loaves, has kept my household pretty occupied (“like” everyday).
    Thanks again,
    K.

  16. jack parler says:

    Can you provide more information on this?

  17. Lizzzzzzzz says:

    I love beets! I discovered them when I was traveling in New Zealand. At one farm I stayed at, we had them roasted with other veggies. At another, we grated raw beet into salad. The beet juice from grating plus some lemon juice made the dressing.

    A beet-saster: I once tried to make red velvet cake with grated beets in it. Carrot cake is good. Why not beet cake? I grated my fingers and they bled so I had to start over. When I finally got it done, the cake was disgusting! Upon further reflection, I realized the recipe was a diet recipe with less butter and sugar than cake needs. Ew! However, I am still hopeful delicious beet cake is in my future.

  18. Betty says:

    A new restaurant just opened here. On the menu was roasted beets – but it was served as an appetizer. One slice of beet spread with a bit of honey and goat cheese mixture and topped with a second beet slice. DELICIOUS!!
    The beets were roasted – so no bleeding.

  19. m dela says:

    Had a salad in New Orleans at Rio Mar,
    roasted beets, pistachios, and blue cheese – it was so yummy!

  20. Cole Roberts says:

    Hi – just came across your site doing a search for roasted beets. I’m going to try out your method tonight. Your site looks great – I look forward to following it!

  21. Apartment Dining » Blog Archive » Back Soon says:

    [...] of the beets, the only successful portion of the pizza preparation. I roasted them according to this post on Not Eating Out in New York and they turned out well. What’s left of them is currently [...]

  22. Kristen says:

    I followed your recipe for the beets I picked today from my garden. Topped with a little pepper, coarse salt, and some smoked chevre from the farmers market. Best. Thing. EVER!

  23. nithya at hungrydesi says:

    came across your blog while deciding whether to roast or boil fresh beets i picked up at the farmers market. about to fire up the oven! and of course, am saving the tops. i saved the tops from radishes last week – slightly bitter, peppery and healthy – yum.

  24. Renee says:

    A different city from yours, but roasted beet salad turned out fantastic. I’m making it again this week! Thanks again for the recipes :)

  25. Gin71 says:

    I, too, came across your blog while on a hunt for a method of roasting beets. I was going for the “no foil” version, since I have some really nice small ‘beet-lets’ from the farmer’s market (oh, for the days to come when I can grow my own again in a new, real garden! yay!), but for time’s sake, I will try your way.
    I’m looking forward to checking out the rest of your blog.

  26. Not Eating Out in New York » Summer Borscht says:

    [...] 5 medium-sized beets, boiled or roasted until tender, peeled and diced about 2 English cucumbers, diced about 3-4 medium tomatoes, diced 3 [...]

  27. Julie says:

    Does any one have any good recommendations for preserving beets? I grew them in the garden this year for the first time. I would love to keep it simple. Could I roast them (I like to toss them in a little olive oil, S&P & then roast ‘em up) and then just freeze them? Any thots, gang?

  28. Bryce Juarez says:

    Interesting article. Were did you got all the information from…?

  29. Vanderbilt Wife says:

    Thanks for the wonderful advice, and the comments are great, too! I’m trying to recreate an amazing “Beet and Heat” salad I had at a fine restaurant tonight, and I’ve never cooked beets before. But I’m willing to try anything!

    The salad will be organic romaine, roasted beets, goat cheese, and spicy candied pecans. I’m thinking some sort of mustard vinaigrette.

    Of course, hard work and my husband probably won’t touch it. But it will make me happy.

  30. Not Eating Out in New York » Spiced Fennel Salad with Creme Fraiche and Meyer Lemon says:

    [...] her take home the beets, which she hesitated about because she didn’t think she knew how to cook them. She really didn’t want to take the fennel, though, but that was fine with [...]

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  32. Elizabeth says:

    Lizzzzzzzz – we must be kindred spirits as I am also a Liz. I have also been longing to try a carrot cake recipe with shredded beets. However, every time I buy beets I end up roasting them, especially at this time of year when they are so fresh and young. I think I’ll save the cake for late winter, when the market has huge, woody beets that won’t be good for much else.

  33. Erin says:

    my partner and i love, love, love roasted beets! we found a great dressing recipe for them:

    1 tbl whole grain mustart
    1 tsp dijon mustard
    1 tbl honey
    1 tsp white wine vinegar
    1 tbl olive oil (or toasted walnut oil)
    salt, pepper and fresh ground cloves (1/4 tsp – optional)

    your recipe sounds delicious, as well… might be time to branch out! just got some fresh ones from our CSA… they are roasting as we speak!

  34. Adrienne says:

    Got beets in my farm box, and I’m going to make this tonight! It looks darn good. PS, love your site. Can’t believe I just discovered it!

  35. Not Eating Out in New York » Peach and Roasted Beet Salad says:

    [...] way of to do that, and roasting intensifies their flavor, too. Here’s a more detailed how-to on that. And once they’re all cooked and de-skinned, try holding the beet in your hand as you [...]

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  37. Special K says:

    I just found your blog and absolutely LOVE it!

    Thanks for the recipe. :)

  38. Not Eating Out in New York » Chestnuts: A Story of Failure says:

    [...] off to a holiday party with beets in tow instead. You know, simply roasted? Good stuff, and seasonal, too. Share [...]

  39. heckabecca says:

    I’m making this tonight. i have never wrapped them in foil. so while they usually turn out delicious- they shrivel up. thanks for the easy directions!

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  41. Greenmarket Pick: Summer Beets from S. & S. O. Produce Farms | NonaBrooklyn says:

    [...] Simply Roasted Beets from Cathy Erway [...]

  42. Kathy Lewis says:

    Thanks for all the good words on beets. I have tons of them (not really) in my refrigerator from the Farm Co-op. I love them to begin with but was feeling overwhelmed with what to do with them. So now I know. I’m going to roast them and make salads.

  43. Arugula Salad with Roasted Beets and Figs | Q's Eats says:

    [...] to go for salads, or just to eat plain, sliced and sprinkled with sea salt.  How to roast beets here.  (You just wrap them in foil, similar to baked potatoes.  You can do that!  Don’t be [...]

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  45. Tracey says:

    Yum! I’m trying these tonight! Love your blog. Now following. :)

  46. Beets: Customs and a Matter of Taste | says:

    [...] sister mentioned that she does not like beets, won’t eat them. I told her that roasting them would change her mind. She then asked what I serve the roasted beets with and I said I don’t [...]

  47. Beets: Customs and a Matter of Taste | Local Memphis News says:

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  55. Pickled Pink « Vivid Vegetables says:

    [...] with fried goat cheese and I just might dig in. I typically roast my beets, very much like this. But recently I read a touching post on Food and Fiction. The author’s beloved mother-in-law [...]

  56. Simple | Not Quite Gourmet Simple | …voila!! says:

    [...] Roasted Beet Salad adapted from Not Eating Out in New York  [...]

  57. Pickled Pink | Vivid Vegetables says:

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  58. Strawberry Beet Smoothie | dishes and dishes says:

    [...] with the beautiful leafy greens still attached.  I baked them by wrapping them in tin foil (method here) and washed and spun the greens.  The next morning when I went to make my usual green smoothie, I [...]

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