Beets me! (beet salad with yogurt mint dressing)

April 15, 2010 § 2 Comments

Is it immature of me if, as I sit thinking about important things to say about beets, all I can really think about is what comes out on the other side after you eat beets (teeheehee)?  That and the song “Beat It” by MJ, which comes into my head virtually every time I cook beets.  It’s kind of like beets have their own theme song.  Which makes me wonder, would people eat more vegetables or fewer if each had their own theme song?  But, back to cooking and eating beets.  Beets are wonderful!  They’re definitely sweet – some sugar is made from a variety of beets, even! –  with a unique subterranean earthiness (that, admittedly, some people don’t like).

I cook them a lot.  They’re great roasted and then eaten plain as a side dish, or added to a salad once they’ve cooled.  Their sweetness contrasts nicely with tangy-ness from citrus, also goat cheese. And, it’s complemented nicely by pecans or hazelnuts if you’re making a salad.  For a side I usually peel and slice them while they’re raw and then roast them with olive oil, salt and pepper, like I do with most any root vegetable.  But, for salad use they’re nice roasted whole first (or even boiled) and then peeled and sliced.  But this takes a heckuva lot longer!

Beets can also stain nearly anything.  I learned from the men working on remodeling my parents’ kitchen (where I’m visiting at this moment!) that beet juice can stain tile grout.  Sorry to ruin your fun if you were planning on spending an exciting  evening throwing beets at your tiles…They can certainly stain your clothes if your not careful.  It also seems that they stain your insides!  At least, as I alluded to earlier, when you use the toilet the next day, you can generally tell that you ate beets.  Every single time I think I’m dying.  Which at this point is pretty ridiculous considering how often I eat beets.  But, that’s just the way it is.  I see the color of my pee and I freak.  And then it takes me a couple of minutes, but just when I’m on the verge of calling the hospital I remember what it was I had for dinner.

I was making this beet preparation at my parents’ when the kitchen remodelers arrived, which was very exactly a point in time at which I was not supposed to be using the kitchen, and which is how I learned beets stain grout, and why the workers keep asking me if I’m going to make beets, every time I walk near the kitchen.  Oh well.  It’s a little fancier than my standard roasted beets with no frills (or a squirt of orange juice).  It’s a kind of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean inspired with the yogurt mint sauce.  Like with goat cheese, the tangy yogurt is a good counterpoint to the beets while the sweet mint is a complement.  Not too much of one side or the other.  Then the garlic olive oil adds pungent garlic flavor (basically, I have trouble making anything that doesn’t involve garlic, unless it’s dessert!)  It’s a lovely cold side dish for when the weather is warming (but you’re still using the last of the beets from your root cellar).  I think it would be really good with lamb that has been rubbed with cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and a wee bit of cayenne and roasted or grilled.  It would also be good accompanying chicken or fish.  Or, for a vegetarian take you could just pile the beets and sauce on top of cooked quinoa, or barley, or bulgur wheat, or a pilaf of some sort, and then maybe sprinkle with a bit of feta to add some saltiness (and stick with the Mediterranean leanings of the yogurt sauce) or some chopped nuts.

Oh, and before I forget, if you get a bunch of beets that has their leaves, save the leaves!!  You can just remove the leafy parts from the stem and cook them as you would any hardy cooking green.  You can make an all beet salad by sauteeing beet greens then topping them with slices of roast beet root, and tossing with a citrusy or balsamic vinaigrette.  Or would that be beet-ing a dead horse?  Haha…ouch, okay you’re right.  That was not even close to funny.

Beets with yogurt mint sauce (serves 4-6)

  • 1 large bunch of beets, leaves removed
  • 2 cups plain yogurt (or sour cream)
  • a sprinkle of cayenne (about 1/4 tsp)
  • About 2 1/2 tbsp fresh mint chopped (you could also try other herbs like basil or dill)
  • A large splash olive oil (a couple Tbs.)
  • 3 small cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Roast beets wrapped in foil in a 400º oven for about an hour and a half (go do something else exciting while they roast, I guess!).  Once cool, cut off the tips and tops, then remove the skin, either by peeling carefully or rubbing the skin off with your fingers (wash your hands quickly afterwards or you’ll have pink fingers for days.  It’s a good look, really).  Slice the beets. 
  2. Combine the yogurt with a sprinkling of salt (about ¼ tsp.), cayenne, black pepper to taste, and the fresh chopped mint (or other herb).  Lay the beets out on a serving plate and spoon the yogurt over them.  You can also toss the beets with the yogurt, just be aware that the whole thing will wind up a very dramatic shade of pink. 
  3. Over medium heat, sauté the garlic in the olive oil until lightly golden (a couple of minutes).  Finally drizzle the flavored oil over the beet mixture (feeling rather artsy about it, if you’re anything like me). Serve cold or at room temp.
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