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Beets

Beet,Walnut & Goat Cheese Salad | Beet Ravioli | Borscht

beetsBeets are not a glamorous vegetable per se, but they are incredibly versatile. Roasting enhances beets' natural sweetness, as well as their rich color, and makes them well suited to both sweet and savory dishes. Our favorite way is to steam them whole with their skins on. Slip off the skins when they're tender and cooled; this preserves their color. Peeled, steamed beets are then ready to use in a hundred different ways.

Grated raw beets make a gorgeous addition to a salad, and can even be a salad on their own. Just dress with vinegar and oil, salt and pepper, and chopped herbs like dill, tarragon, chervil or thyme. Beets will store in the fridge a long time if you cut off the greens and toss the roots in a bag. Saute the beet greens just as you would other greens like chard and spinach in your favorite recipes.

Storage

Remove beet greens from roots and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 1 week. Store washed or unwashed roots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a month or more.

Freezing Greens

Blanch pre-washed (and chopped, if desired) greens in boiling water for 1 minute.  Plunge into an ice water bath to cool. Drain and wring out as much water as possible. Form into convenient serving-size balls. Wrap balls in plastic wrap and freeze in quart or gallon-size freezer bags.

Root Cellar

Store unwashed roots in a cold, damp cellar (32-34 degrees and 90% humidity) for several months.

Recipes

Salad with Beets, Walnuts and Goat Cheese

This is my favorite way to eat beets. The combination of the bitter greens, the sweet beets, the roasty nuts, the creamy cheese, and the sharp dressing is one of the most sublime flavor combinations ever contrived.

  • Leafy greens such as lettuce, arugula, dandelion greens, spinach, or radicchio
  • 1 bunch small beets
  • Small handful walnuts or pecans
  • 4 oz fresh goat cheese
  • Shavings of sweet onion or shallot, scallion or chives

For the Dressing:

  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Wash and dry the greens and add to your favorite salad bowl. Trim and wash the beets and steam until tender. (Peeling is not necessary, but if desired, they slip right off after cooking.) Toast the walnuts either in the toaster oven or in a dry frying pan and set aside. Be careful not to scorch them. Decorate the salad with pats of the goat cheese, onions and slices of beet.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by whisking together the mustard, vinegars, and the salt and pepper. Drizzle in the oil as you continue whisking and the dressing should emulsify into  creamy brown substance. Just before serving add the toasted nuts, and toss with the dressing.

Casunzei (Beet Ravioli with Brown Butter & Poppy Seed Sauce)

We love this traditional  filled pasta dish from northeastern Italy near the border with Slovenia that represents the fusion of Italian techniques and Eastern European ingredients found in the Friuli region. We get it every time we go to Al Di La, one of our favorite Brooklyn restaurants.  We lifted this recipe word for word from a similarly inspired Brooklyn food blogger.  See the original recipe and the stunning photos of the process here.

  • 1 batch of fresh egg pasta OR (if easier, but I’ll shed a bit of a tear) wonton wrappers
  • 2 beets, peeled and boiled til soft                                                               
  • 1 large potato, peeled and boiled till soft
  • 7 oz of ricotta
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 3 tablespoons of milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon of fresh nutmeg
  • pinch of salt to taste
  • (This makes enough filling for a LOT of ravioli)

Ingredients for Sauce:

  • 4-6 tablespoons of unsalted butter     
  • optional: 6 sage leaves
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds
  • freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
  • (optional) pinch of salt
  • (optional garnish) chopped chives

What to do:

   1. Boil your beets and potato until very soft. Remove and allow to cool for a bit. When cool, mash by hand or blitz in a food processor till pretty smooth. Add to a bowl.
   2. Once the beet/potato mixture is cool, add your ricotta, cheese, nutmeg, salt and milk. Stir to combine. Taste for seasoning.
   3. Using a glass or ravioli cutter with a 4-inch diameter, cut your ravioli circles. Fill the middle of each ravioli with about 1 teaspoon filling. Wet the outer diameter of the ravioli with water using your finger. Bring one side of the circle to meet the other and pinch all of the sides closed. Dust with a bit of flour and allow to await its fate in the boiling water. Note to self – start boiling your pasta water. Don’t forget to add some salt!
   4. Continue making all your ravioli until you have enough.
   5. Add your ravioli to the boiling water and allow to cook (about 2 to 3 minutes). They should raise to the top when they are done.
   6. In a separate pan, heat up your butter on medium-low and allow to cook until butter begins to get a bit of color. Add your sage leaves and continue to get a bit more color. Add your poppy seeds and toss a bit. Add your ravioli’s to the pan and toss in the butter sauce.
   7. Plate ravioli’s with some of the butter sauce on top along with a pinch of (optional) salt and a dusting of freshly ground parmigiano reggiano and chives (optional).

Simple Vegetarian Borscht 

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 onion or leek, chopped fine
  • 1 turnip, 1/4 inch dice
  • 3 carrots, 1/4 inch dice
  • 3 beets, 1/4 inch dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 potatoes, peeled, 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/2 cabbage, 1/2 inch chunks 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup canned tomato, or diced plum tomatoes
  • 6 Tbsp wine vinegar, or to taste
  • 2 Tbsp dill, chopped 
  • sour cream 

In a large soup pot saute onion or leek, turnips, carrots and beets in butter and oil until onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add broth, potatoes, cabbage, bay leaf, tomato, and salt & pepper. Simmer 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar and taste for salt. Refrigerate overnight if serving cold. Add dill and sour cream to the bowl when serving.