You can’t beat this cooking technique: My favorite way to eat beets (Or, how to roast beets)

How to roast beetsImage credit: Beet it by darwin Bell, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0. (modified)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve developed a fondness for eating beets and have developed a hobby of finding new recipes with beets as a featured ingredient. A few years ago, the technique of roasting vegetables came my way, and I was grateful for this new way to enjoy vegetables. Since then, it’s been my go-to method to prepare any fresh beets that come my way, but roasting vegetables is a technique that can be used on most types of vegetables.

Why roast vegetables?

Roasting vegetables is a simple technique that helps bring out the deliciousness of vegetables. Roasting vegetables brings out their sweetness, which makes vegetables like Brussels sprouts more palatable to many.

You can roast just about any vegetable. Hearty root vegetables (like onions, garlic, carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes and beets) and winter squash (think butternut squash) tend to work best, because they hold up to the high heat roasting requires and contain more natural sugars to support caramelization, but I also like to roast peppers, squash, cauliflower and tomatoes.

How to roast vegetables

To roast vegetables, cut them into similarly sized pieces and toss them in a little olive oil and any seasonings you wish. Then, spread your vegetables out on a baking sheet, leaving a lot of room between the pieces. The temperature you use will vary depending on how hearty your vegetables are and how brown you want them to get, but somewhere between 400 and 450 degrees (vegetables with a higher water content, like tomatoes, should be cooked a the lower range).

Cooking time will vary as well, but generally 30-45 minutes is the average. You’ll want to toss your veggies a few times during the roasting process, to ensure everything cooks evenly. You’ll know your veggies are done when they start to get a pleasing brown color on the outside and, for vegetables like butternut squash, a fork pierces through easily.

It’s that easy!

My favorite way to eat roasted beets

My favorite method for preparing beets is slightly different from the method I just described. I clean the beets and trim the tops and bottoms, then I put them on a piece of aluminum foil. I take a second piece of foil and place on top of the beets. Then I fold the edges of the two pieces of foil together, to create a pouch to cook my beets in.

Next, I place the pouch on a baking sheet and bake it in a 400 degree oven. After 20 minutes, I flip over the pouch and bake for 20 minutes more. Then I check the beets for doneness, by piercing a beet with a fork, if it passes through easily they’re done, if not, I reseal the foil flip them over and check again every 10 minutes until the beets are the desired tenderness.

Once they’re done, I leave my these little gems in the foil pouch to cool. Once they have cooled to room temperature, I peel and slice the beets into a bowl. Next I drizzle with a nice balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. This preparation makes a nice dish own its own or atop a nice salad.

What about you? Do you love roasting vegetables? What’s your favorite way to eat them? Let me know in the comments or take your discussion to Facebook!

Cooking curiosity: Why are beets good for you?

 Why are beets good for youImage credit: Beet it by darwin Bell, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0. (modified)

What is a beet?

A beet is a root vegetable–like carrots, turnips and radishes–that is quick growing and is quite tolerant of cold growing conditions, which is why you see it on spring and winter menus. It comes in red, gold, white and one variety–the chioggia–has a red and white striped root that looks very pretty when sliced.

Red beets are also used in food production as natural colorant for products such as tomato paste, jam and once I saw it as an ingredient in my strawberry yogurt!

What do beets taste like?

Growing up, I didn’t think I liked beets. I had it served to me one time–it came from a can; it was waxy and tasty odd and I and refused to try it again. My family didn’t have a cultural tradition of eating beet-centric dishes, so I never had the chance to learn what was so wonderful about beets.

That is, until I met my boyfriend.

At the time, he was running a small commercial produce farm that sold heirloom tomatoes, fingerling potatoes and beets to local restaurants. He dazzled me with the tomatoes (my favorite summer treat), but when he gave me a bag of beets… let’s just say I was less enthusiastic.

He loved to talk about eating beets and their health benefits, so he convinced me to give beets a chance.

I’m glad he did, because now they’re one of my favorite vegetables. Beets are sweeter than carrots and, like carrots, can be eaten raw or cooked. Beet greens are edible, too, so don’t throw them away! I’ve used beets in variety of ways (more on that in a moment) and have yet to be disappointed with my cooking results.

What are the nutritional benefits of beets?

Before I tell you about the nutritional benefits of beets, I’m going to start with a public service announcement: Eating beets may induce beeturia.

This is a real condition; it means after eating beets, your urine or stool may take on a red hue. No one warned me of this, and I was a bit alarmed the first time I used the bathroom after eating a big batch of roasted beets. I didn’t feel poorly, but I did start to wonder if a trip to the emergency room was necessary. Then I remembered my earlier meal.

Now that’s out of my system, on to the reasons why you should be eating beets:

  • Beets contain high amounts of folate, which is good for your brain and nervous system.
  • Looking to prevent heart disease? Beets contain betaine, which reduces inflammation in the blood vessels.
  • Beets contain manganese, which is important to have in your diet to help your body make bones, connective tissues and sex hormones (and they say oysters are a natural aphrodisiac).
  • Beet greens are a superfood, too. Beet greens are high in calcium, iron and vitamins A and C.

How do you use beets in cooking?

Beets can be prepared in many ways. My favorite way is to make oven-roasted beets, but you can also boil or steam them as you would a potato. Raw, shredded beet is a delicious (and attractive) addition to a salad. Pickled beets are delicious, too.

Did you know you can even make sweet treats using beets? I’ve made beet cake, beet bread (similar to banana bread) and I’ve eaten beet ice cream!

If you’re looking for ways to cook beets, try these links to get you started:

What you about you? Do you think beets can’t be beat? What’s your favorite way to prepare them?