Ah, Beets: the ever so intimidating, polarizing, rutty, root vegetable. You either love ’em or hate ’em. Barack and Michelle Obama hate ’em. I saw Michelle Obama on her book tour – she was promoting her best selling cooking/gardening book ‘American Grown’ – tell the audience at The View that the only vegetable that was not welcome in the White House Garden was the beet. And, the Obamas are not alone. There are beet-haters everywhere.
I, on the other hand, am a beet-lover. Still, even with my love of beets, I agree there are many things about them to hate.
1. They’re sort of creepy-ugly – like all root vegetables at the market, they’re dirty…like covered in dirt dirty.
2. They’re really really really hard to peel
3. They’re hard in general…so, if you don’t have a super sharp knife, peeling and cutting them can be dangerous.
4. The deep red variety (Detroit Red Beets) will stain your clothes, hands, any porous cutting board
On the flip side…when prepared well…they’re delicious, beautiful and make a perfect side dish. This past weekend I was the boss of beets.
Roasted Beets (serves 6)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
2. Peel, clean and cut 10-12 beets into cubes.
They ARE hard to peel. I’m not going to lie. I used a vegetable peeler at first, but found that using the peeler was too messy and difficult.
HINT: Switch to a paring knife and cut the skin off like you might with a pineapple – cutting off the tops and bottoms, then carefully working from top to bottom and skinning the sides.
In this picture there are three different varieties of beets that I found at the local Farmer’s Market: Chioggia (red and white striped), Detroit Dark Red and Golden. They have similar taste – the difference is in color and size.
When cutting, try to make sure they are all about the same size.
3. Put the cut pieces into a colander. When all 12 beets are peeled and cut, rinse the pieces thoroughly.
4. Toss the peeled, cut and cleaned beet cubes with 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp sea salt, 1 tsp lemon zest, and 3/4 tbsp fresh thyme leaves. If you use dried thyme, just use 1/2 as much and crush it in your palms before sprinkling over the beets. Make sure all beet pieces are sufficiently coated.
5. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and put into the oven for 40-45 mins
6. When the beets are browned and softened to taste…remove from the oven and THEN – thank you Ina Garten, great suggestion – toss in about 1 tablespoon of fresh orange juice. The orange juice adds a secret tang and also enhances the natural sweetness of the beets themselves.
7. You can crumble some feta cheese over the top and serve warm
What was once so terribly ugly, intimidating and frankly, dirty, has emerged tender, gently roasted and absolutely as beautiful as it is delicious.
I’m not going to beat anyone over the head with my love of beets. And, I know that this roasted recipe won’t change the minds of self-professed beet-haters everywhere.
That said….I do think that it really couldn’t hurt the Obamas in their quest for re-election if Michelle embraced the beauty in the beet and could find just a little corner for beets in her White House garden. Could it?