The July Farmers Market Challenge item was beets. Somehow, I had managed never to have prepared or really even eaten beets before. Well, once, but it was because I thought they were candied apple rings on a salad bar in the 80s. I probably don’t need to tell you how disappointing that experience was.
There were beets aplenty all over the market in July (and still this week), so I picked up a bunch from Wiltse’s Farm in Maple Park, IL. If you take a look at their website, you will see the steps they take to use healthy practices for enriching soil and controlling pests/disease. The beets were beautiful. For beets, anyway.
I took them home and consulted my Vegetarian and Vegetable Cooking book by Ingram and a beets feature in the New York Times. I learned that beets are high in fiber, folate (just the raw ones, though), manganese, B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and iron. Beets are pretty good for you. I decided to try roasting them because serving them raw felt like cheating. It’s like saying that you “cooked” a peanut butter sandwich.
I trimmed all but 1/4″ of the stems, scrubbed the beets, and placed them in a covered casserole dish with 1/4″ of water, per the New York Times piece. I roasted them in a 425 degree oven for 45 minutes, and their texture was perfect. Cooking time varies with the size of the beet. They are finished when a knife can easily slide into the flesh of the beet. Don’t check too often, though, because the dark red beet juice will bleed all over the pan with each puncture. Allow to cool in the casserole dish, then cut the ends and peel when you are ready to serve. I tried them chilled with a simple vinaigrette.
This was a disaster. The only thing that went right is that the beets were perfectly roasted. About 20 minutes into the roasting process, the aromas coming from the kitchen started to uninvite all humans. I was able to contain the odor by keeping the casserole dish covered even after the beets cooled, but when it came time to serve, it was hard to get over the fragrance. I don’t know what I did wrong, but I won’t be doing an investigation and re-try anytime soon. Someday, but not this season. Beets will get another opportunity in my kitchen, but they will be raw. I hear that shredded beets are all sorts of fun on salads.