Versatile Leaf-to-Root Eats
by April Thompson
Versatile, nutritious, colorful and flavorful, beets are quite the package deal. This easy-to-grow, multi-season vegetable is packed with nutrition and plays well with other ingredients. Beets can be enjoyed raw, roasted, boiled or pickled. They can be blended into quick dips, thin-sliced for healthy chips or incorporated into desserts for a mild, sweet flavor and bold color.
“Beets have been a staple ingredient on our vegetarian menus for generations. They are an easy way to add natural sweetness and gorgeous color to so many dishes, both savory and sweet,” says Danica Wilcox, owner of the Moosewood Restaurant, in Ithaca, New York, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. The quintessential vegetarian eatery’s go-to beet dishes include hummus, burgers and borscht.
“Beets boast so many health benefits. Being rich in folate, manganese and copper, they are good for heart, brain and bone health. They are also a good source of fiber, which will feed the good bacteria in your gut, leading to improved gut health,” says Candace Bell, a Phoenix-based holistic nutritionist and food blogger at The Wheatless Kitchen. “Beets have a unique earthy flavor that goes perfectly with bright citrus. Roasting them brings out their sweet and savory flavors, and they pair well with arugula, crunchy walnuts and tangy goat cheese in a salad.”
Lisa Keys, of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, author of the food blog Good Grief Cook, grows beets and uses them in a number of ways. “Beets get their color from natural plant pigments called betalains, which contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help control illnesses like diabetes and heart disease,” she says. Her blog offers a recipe for a hearty, roasted beet sandwich, which pairs the root veggie with feta and a smashed avocado, dill, lime and yogurt spread.
Versatility is one of the beet’s star qualities. The root vegetable can be quick-pickled with other garden vegetables, pureed into soup, roasted for a side dish, shredded raw into salads, juiced into a smoothie or even concentrated into a powder—a favorite of registered dietitian nutritionist Mascha Davis, in Los Angeles. “Beet powder can be added to so many recipes for a fast and easy superfood boost,” she says. Her go-to applications for beet powder include a beet and rose latte, a beet-colored “pink yogurt” topped with berries and cacao nibs, and overnight oats swirled with beet powder.
If the benefits of the beetroot didn’t already run deep enough, its stems and leaves are not only edible, but also packed with vitamins A, B and K, as well as copper, manganese, iron and calcium. The greens make a great side dish to accompany a beetroot main dish or can be incorporated into a beet soup, salad, sandwich or smoothie for a zero-waste meal turbocharged with nutrients.
Like spinach, chard and other vegetables in the goosefoot family (Chenopodiaceae), beets are rich in oxalates which can contribute to kidney stones. For most healthy people, though, oxalates aren’t harmful, if enjoyed in moderation.
Connect with Washington, D.C., freelance writer April Thompson at AprilWrites.com.
Healthy Beet RecipesBeet, Greens and Goat Cheese Linguine
2 medium, fresh organic or local beets with leaves
¼ cup unsweetened jasmine green tea (or water), hot or cold
1½ Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Juice and zest of ½ lemon (1½ Tbsp juice)
2 large garlic cloves
¾ tsp sea salt
10 oz dry, whole-grain linguine
2 oz soft, artisanal goat cheese or soft cashew cheese, crumbled
¼ cup fresh, small basil leaves
Preheat the oven (or toaster oven) to 350° F. Wash, dry and remove the leaves from the beets; thinly slice the leaves and chill until ready to use. Wrap the beets in recycled aluminum foil and roast in the oven until cooked through and tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, scrape off the beet skin using the dull side of a paring knife, then chop the beets.
In a blender, add the chopped beets, tea, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, garlic and salt. Blend until velvety smooth, at least 2 minutes. Set aside. (Tip: Be careful. This purée will stain anything that it may be splattered onto.)
Bring a large saucepan of water to boil over high heat. Add salt to the water, if desired. Add the linguine and cook according to package directions. (Alternatively, try my lid-cooking technique to save energy: After stirring the linguine into the boiling water, cover with a lid and turn off or remove from heat. Let cook without heat per the same timing suggested on the pasta package.)
While the pasta is cooking, pour the beet purée into a large sauté pan and bring just to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the beet greens and cook while stirring until the greens are wilted, about 5 minutes.
Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the beet sauce and gently toss with tongs to combine. Add desired amount of reserved cooking liquid (if any) and gently toss to combine.
Transfer to a large serving bowl and sprinkle with the goat cheese and basil. Sprinkle with additional lemon zest, if desired, and serve.
Recipe by The Chef’s Garden.
Kale and Beet Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Yield: 2 servings
For the salad:
1 bunch kale
3-4 medium beets
⅓ cup roasted walnuts, chopped
½ cup goat cheese
Pinch of salt
1-2 pinches of microgreens
For the dressing:
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp freshly crushed black
pepper, finely ground
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the beets:
Add beets to a full pot of water and bring to a boil, cooking them until they are fork tender. Remove beets from stove and drain into a colander. Run cold water over them to cool slightly. Remove the skins with a paring knife and/or fingers. Slice into quarters.
For the dressing:
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the balsamic, mustard, salt and pepper. Add the oil and whisk thoroughly to combine. Continue whisking until the dressing is fully emulsified.
For the salad:
Combine kale, beets, walnuts and 2 Tbsp dressing in a bowl and mix. Add a pinch or two of microgreens. Add the goat cheese by breaking it into small pieces. Add a pinch of salt and serve.
Note: Store any extra dressing in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator. Use within 7 days.
Recipe by The Chef’s Garden
Beet Chips with Sea Salt and Smoked Paprika
1 Tbsp sea salt
¼ tsp smoked paprika
4 medium beets, rinsed
2 Tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line two, 18-by-13-by-1-inch baking pans with aluminum foil. Combine sea salt and paprika. Cut the beets into very thin slices using a sharp knife or mandoline. Divide beets between each of the prepared pans. Drizzle each with oil then shake in the pan. Sprinkle with salt mixture and toss again. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and bake for another 15 minutes or until chips are crispy.
Recipe by Reynolds Wrap
Yield: 6 servings
2 roasted beets, small
1 15-oz can chickpeas
1 large lemon, zested
½ large lemon, juiced
1 pinch salt and black pepper
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp tahini
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Peel and dice beets into cubes and roast in the oven at 350° F for 20 to 25 minutes. Once the beets are cooled, place them in blender or food processor and blend until only small bits remain. Add remaining ingredients except for olive oil and blend until smooth. Drizzle in olive oil as the hummus is mixing. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, lemon juice or olive oil, as needed. If it’s too thick, add a bit of water. This dish will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Recipe by The Chef’s Garden