June 10, 2009

Beets Two Ways

Roasted Beets Done

Beets are magical. The tuber is sweet, especially when it's roasted, and the greens are a tangy and nutritious addition to any meal.

Roasted Beets MiseWhen I have beets to roast I don't mess about. I drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle some sel gris or kosher salt on top, cover them with foil, and put them into the oven (350°F/175°C). After about 2-3 hours (depending on the size of the beet) they should be ready. They won't overcook if you leave them in the oven an extra quarter hour or so, they'll just caramelize. I like to finish them with a drizzle of Villa Manodori Balsamic Vinegar.

Beet Greens PrepThe greens require a bit more work. A thorough cleaning is necessary, and I like to remove most of the stalk. You can braise them as-is with some onion, garlic, and maybe bacon. I used them as part of a skillet supper.

An inexpensive steak, like a round steak, is perfect for a simple skillet supper, and you can stretch a small steak to feed several people. Slice it rather thinly against the grain so that it'll cook rapidly yet be tender. Be careful to clean it up by trimming excess fat and removing tendon and silver skin.

Chop up some aromatics--onion, sweet red pepper, some carrot if you like. Peel and dice a tomato or two, or cut some cherry tomatoes in half. Make a chiffonade from the greens, or at least tear them into smaller pieces. Get some garlic confit out of the refrigerator, or mince a clove or two of fresh garlic.

The actual ingredients really don't matter that much, use whatever you have. The quantity doesn't much matter either, just use more veggies than meat, and make enough for however many are eating plus one or two, because it's mostly veggies, so you want to encourage a second helping.

Steak and Greens Cooking

Preheat your fry pan with some extra virgin olive oil--keep the heat down between medium-low and medium. Once the oil starts to shimmer, toss in the aromatics. Stir for a minute or so, then add the steak and garlic. Season lightly with salt and pepper. When the steak is mostly done, add the greens. After a couple more minutes the greens should be wilted and the steak should have given up some of its water. Now toss in the tomato and add a splash of wine. Give the tomatoes just enough time to soften, and it's done.

Steak and Greens

A simple dish like this will be successful if you follow a few guidelines. Use lots of fresh veggies of as many colors as you can manage; you need to eat all the colors for complete nutrition, and the color makes it more appetizing. Use an inexpensive protein--no need for porterhouse here. Remember the wine! Some alcohol is vital if you want to access all the flavors and nutrients, and it'll cook out by the time the pan is deglazed.

Finally, the most important thing to remember is that there's no recipe, and there are no recipe police looking over your shoulder to make sure you used exactly the same things I did in exactly the same proportions. Just get into the kitchen, use what you have, and create your own skillet supper. It'll be great!


  1. Mmmmm, I'm totally drooling. I LOVE beets and this post is making hungry!

  2. Thanks! I'm having the same problem. No more blogging on an empty stomach. ;)

  3. This looks fantastic, I love the versatility of beets.

  4. No recipe?? *gasp!*

    I'm gradually learning to get away from recipes, but it's kind of scary when you've been dependent on them for so long. But it's fun!

    I grew up pretty much only eating pickled beets, and they're one of the few vegetables my son actually appears to like. I'm definitely going to have to try one roasted - that looks really delicious!

  5. Roasting beets brings out the sugars, so they're fairly sweet. Your son may find it something he enjoys because of the sweetness.

    I don't always cook without recipes, just most of the time. Recipes with careful measurements are a recent invention, and quite useful for pastry and learning how things work, but not all that important for other things. It's more important to think about what you'd like to taste, then start putting things in the pan to create that flavor!

  6. Heh Gareth

    There's nothing better than the feel of your fingers slipping off roasted beet skin, is there? I gotta question for you, though? Did you ever notice that every once in awhile there are some beets that just want to hang onto their skins? I consistently cook my beets as you do, maybe a bit less time because I'm not as patient. But sometimes I run into crumudgeonly beets. Wonder why...

  7. I just cook them until they can't take any more heat and undress themselves. ;) Seriously, though, I noticed that the skins came off easier when I roasted uncovered. I think I'll go throw a couple of beets in the oven and try uncovering for the last hour to see if it makes it easier to remove the skin. I'll let you know.

  8. I usually roast them in a foil-covered Pyrex baking dish along with a bit of water. Say, roughly about 1/4 to 1/3 cup, for 30 to 40 minutes at 350 F.

    The peel slips right off once they're done.

    Chef Mark's method works just as well though if you prefer them caramelized.

  9. The reason the skins slip off so easily the way you've described is because you aren't actually roasting the beets, you're steaming them. Technically, even covering them as I often do will end up steaming the beets to a certain extent. It works well, but it will produce different flavor and texture than roasting, which should always be done uncovered.

    I generally eat the skins anyway, so I've never worried too much about removing them. The skins contain a very significant portion of the nutrients available in a vegetable, so I only remove the skin when necessary.

  10. I have run into so many people who have never even tasted a beet that didn't come out of a can, or pickled...

    My own concoction is roasting some golden and peppermint beets (or ones that have different colors and vibrant rings) slicing/cutting at room temperature pairing with goat cheese/chevre (sometimes herbed) and drizzling with roasted garlic vinagrette.

  11. That sounds really delicious! If you don't happen to have roasted garlic handy, put some garlic heads into foil with a drizzle of olive oil and toss them into the oven during the last hour of roasting. Nice way to get double duty out of the oven.