I’ve never given beets proper respect. When I was growing up, every once in a while my dad would buy cold borscht, a clear beet soup, in a bottle. I’m sure real cold borscht has its merits, but the pre-made variety was just vivid purple, salty and sweet. Being a sugar-fiend, I liked the taste, the startling color and even the texture of overcooked beets. Every once in a while I’d voluntarily slide some canned beet slices onto my plate from a salad bar. But I never really got jazzed about beets as a food.
Beets are probably part of my cultural heritage. Hot borscht is one of two foods I remember from my great-grandmother on my mom’s side. (The other was homemade apple sauce, pink from the peels she left on.) Now that I press my memory, I don’t know for sure if I ever tasted borscht she made. I remember my mom and I made a vat of it for my class in elementary school on one of those days when we were supposed to make a food from our heritages. I thought it tasted okay (though I was surprised it came out opaque and tasted nothing like the cold bottled variety). None of my classmates would touch the bright red offering, however.
I think the other parents baked more familiar dishes like ziti or cake for our ethnic luncheon.
That childhood trauma aside, it seems to me that I never really appreciated beets because my parents never thought to cook them. They were adventurous, healthy cooks, but simple earthy beets were not on their radar.
Likewise, I tend to waltz right past the bins of beets at the farmer’s market. Wayne, on the other hand, never one for impulse vegetable purchases, went right for a tub of beets. Four gigantic, dusty root veggies. “We can roast them,” Wayne said. I immediately agreed, since roasted beets made me think salad with goat cheese and that meant an excuse to buy the rich, creamy goat cheese from Sweet Spring Farm. The owner suggested chevre, young, soft cheese, for the salad I had in mind.
The resulting salad is a powerhouse of healthy goodness. First of all, beets are a kind of superfood, filled with betalains, a kind of phytonutrient which has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Beets are also good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium, and are rich in folate and manganese. Wait–there’s more! Some research has suggested beets might even aid in the prevention or treatment of some common cancers. All of that in a tasty, lowfat, low calorie treat.
To this health bonanza, I added walnuts which are filled with good fats and protein. The chevre, which adds protein and calcium, just makes me happy. Goat’s milk cheese is easier to digest and higher in vitamins than cow’s milk cheese, as well.
Beet and Goat Cheese Salad(Yields two entree salads)
- 2 medium beets
- salad greens (bitter or spicy varieties work nicely with the sweet beets and are particularly healthy) Enough greens to generously cover your plate
- 2 ounces chevre
- a handful of walnuts
- optional: microgreens, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, small sliced ripe pear
- balsamic vinaigrette
- fresh ground salt and pepper
Roast the beets:
- Heat oven to 375 degrees
- Snip the greens off the beets, about 1/2-1″ from the end, but leave the tail right on there. Supposedly the tail keeps all those good nutrients and flavor inside the beet while cooking.
- Scrub the dirt off, rinse, and rub in olive oil.
- Wrap the beets in a foil packet and place directly on oven rack. Put a pan beneath the beats in case of drippage.
- Cook for approximately 40 minutes, until the beet yields to a fork. Some of the healthful properties of the beet are destroyed by overcooking, so cook for the minimum time.
- Allow the beets to cool and then peel the tough outer skin. It should slide right off. If it’s stuck, use a knife.
Assemble your salad:
- Slice the beets into thick quarter-moons.
- Lay out a bed of lettuce and arrange the rest on top. Drizzle with dressing, grind the salt and pepper and serve. Ta-da!