I ordered a salad with roasted beets when I was out with my parents recently. They looked at the hunks of purple of my plate and wrinkled their noses. The "I remember when…" statements weren’t far behind. They recalled stinky, pickled beets from a can, which is something they never subjected me to when I was a child (which may be why I was so willing to eat them). "Beets taste like dirt," my dad said with conviction.
Beets do get a bad name in the culinary world, but recently their heath benefits have many reconsidering the oft-overlooked vegetable. Beets are high in folate and vitamin C, for example.
When I insisted that my parents try the beets, they both skeptically took bites and were shocked. The beets were not the mushy, noxious lumps they remembered from their childhoods, but rather a food worth eating, savoring even. My dad plans on grilling them once his Chicago-area hometown thaws.
Still nervous about recreating some awful childhood memories? Try these alternate preparations that have nothing to do with pickling or borscht. Just be careful when handling them—anything they touch will turn red.
1. Sweet. Because beets have the highest natural sugar content of any vegetable, using a sweet preparation is a no-brainer. Tyler Florence shared this red velvet cake recipe on "The View" as a healthier substitute for the Southern favorite. (Tip: His recipe forgets to mention that the vegetable oil should be mixed in with the wet ingredients at the beginning of the recipe. Can’t find pomegranate molasses? Try this Alton Brown recipe.)If baking is a bit ambitious, try this simple glazed baby beets recipe from Alton Brown.
2. Hidden in pasta. Delicious Days has a recipe for incredible-looking beet pasta dough. They used a sweet ravioli filling, but I think the recipe can be versatile. I plan on making this with a butternut squash filling as soon as I can get my parents to ship my pasta machine.
3. Simple. Sometime simple is best. Wrap whole beets, skins on, in foil and roast in a 400 degree oven for an hour or so until tender. The skins will peel off easiliy. Chop beets and eat alone or mix into a salad, maybe with cooked beet greens and oranges. Or, try a Mediterranean beet and yogurt salad.
4. Raw in a salad. The simplest preparation of all. Take some inspiration from the New York Times’ " The Minimalist: 101 Simple Salads for the Season" and pair beets with arugula and goat cheese.
5. Eat the greens. Beet greens are very similar to hearty greens such as collard green and kale. Try them baked in a gratin, in a salad or cooked with bacon and onion.