Roasted Beets

A funny thing happened recently when I announced I was working on beet recipes – not one of my friends offered to taste test. In fact, all conversation awkwardly ceased. Eye contact was avoided. One friend physically recoiled, though she swore it was just a muscle cramp throughout her entire body. Beets, it turns out, are not universally beloved.

If you also shun beets, I beg you not to let the unworthy roots you’ve experienced thus far have the last word. Give the vegetables one more chance and simply roast them. Roasted beets are candy-sweet with a tenderness usually reserved for custard and kindergarten teachers. Just toss whole trimmed beets with a drizzle of oil and a flurry of salt. No chopping necessary, because beets appreciate your busy schedule and don’t want to hassle you. Place the beets in a pan with a splash of water, cover it tightly with aluminum foil and roast about 45 minutes. To peel your cooked beets, hold them in a handful of paper towels and gently wipe the skin away.

It may be a temptation, but don’t wear your wedding dress while cooking, since the deep red juice may leave you ready for a horror movie close-up. Alternatively, you can select golden beets, which are slightly milder in flavor and don’t pink up the place. Roast them the same way, but separately if you’re preparing lovelies of both hues, since the red beets tint their golden cousins when they share a pan.

Now, you can stop right there and enjoy your roasted beets warm or chilled. If you have an extra 30 seconds of prep time, pair them with a full-flavored goat or blue cheese and a splash of vinegar, or pull out all the stops and bake sweets with your beets.

Thanks to Southern Living magazine, I learned that beets are a natural substitute for food coloring in a gem of a red velvet cake recipe. So strictly in the interest of scientific research, I whipped up a batch of beet-velvet cupcakes, cream cheese frosting and all. They were full of chocolaty goodness, with no artificial – or earthy – aftertaste. Even my beet-adverse friends cheerfully enjoyed them. Sometimes beets just need a little faith. And a little chocolate.

Easy Roasted Beets

2 cups

1 lb. (about 4 medium) red or golden beets, trimmed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. water

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• In a large bowl, toss the beets with the olive oil and salt. Place the beets in a roasting pan, add the water, cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast until soft when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes.
• Let the beets rest at room temperature until cool enough to handle, then use a paper towel to wipe off the skins. Cut the beets into quarters and serve hot or cold, plain or drizzled with vinaigrette.

Endive salad
Chop a head of endive lettuce. Add 1 cup chopped roasted red or yellow beets, ½ cup Gorgonzola cheese, ½ cup chopped Fuji apple and 1 ounce chopped walnuts. Toss with a vinaigrette made from 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar and 1∕8 teaspoon kosher salt.

Zesty potato salad
Place 2 pounds scrubbed small red potatoes and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until tender when pierced with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and allow to cool to room temperature, then cut into quarters. Gently fold in 2 cups roasted red beets, ½ cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons cream-style horseradish, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and 1∕8 teaspoon pepper. Refrigerate at least 1 hour then garnish with 2 tablespoons chopped chives.

Beet red velvet cupcakes
Adapted from Southern Living
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cupcake pans. Puree 1 cup roasted beets with 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a food processor. Add 4 large eggs, ¾ cup whole buttermilk and ¾ cup canola oil and pulse until well combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix 2½ cups flour, 1½ cups sugar, 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Add the beet mixture to the dry mixture and mix well. Fill cupcake liners ²∕³ full with batter. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 15 to 18 minutes. Allow to cool, then top with frosting (whip 8 ounces cream cheese and ¼ cup softened unsalted butter in a stand mixer until fluffy, then add 1 pound powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla and whip until smooth).

Beet-Sauced Flatbread
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out and bake 1 pound prepared pizza dough until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Place 2 cups roasted red beets, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 teaspoon minced garlic in a food processor and puree until smooth. Spread on top of warm baked pizza crust. Sprinkle with 1 cup loosely packed chopped fresh baby spinach, 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese and ½ ounce pine nuts. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Return to the oven 8 to 10 minutes, until the goat cheese softens and the spinach wilts. Drizzle with honey if desired, and serve warm.