Feb 25, 2014

BEETS, Beautiful BEETS!




If you've read this blog, or my cookbooks, you know that I love beets in any form. To me they are one of the most beautiful vegetables on earth, and are considered a superfood because of its health benefits. Beets not only lower blood pressure by helping improve blood flow, but increase a person's stamina and energy. They're packed with fiber, vitamins A, B & C, magnesium, and iron.

I love that deep blood red of the beet root, it's like the color of burgundy wine. The tops, when sauteed with onion, garlic, salt, and a smidgen of water make the most wonderful side dish, much better than spinach but similar in flavor and texture.

Fortunately for me, Kumu Farms, grows beets almost year-round here on Moloka'i. It must be the acid volcanic soil of the Hawaiian islands that makes their beets so full of life, and delicious!

I love to try new things, but to me beets are not new, but I think there are a lot of people out their who haven't cooked beets for some reason. They couldn't be any easier to prepare. I used to think you had to peel beets, but you don't. Whether you boil them or roast them, just let them cool and the outer skin just slips off. If they are small, tender beets, you don't even have to peel them. One other thing, fresh beets are much better than canned.

Beets have been popular all over the world for a very long time. Our friends in the Ukraine love beets, they're one of Ukraine's most beloved root vegetables. I think they're national dish is a stew-like soup called borshch. There are many variations, but the end result is a thing to behold. If you are not familiar with borshch, it's made with beets, naturally, but also with many other vegetables, with or without meat, and topped off with a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill. Oh my god, my mouth is watering. The recipe is below. Here are just a few of my favorite beet recipes:


Pickled Beet Root with Daikon Radish
This is my version of the sweet Japanese pickled daikon called "Takuwan" which uses yellow food coloring to make the radishes yellow. I use beets, which color the daikon a beautiful vibrant red. You want to use equal amounts of cooked beets and raw radish for this recipe. This condiment pairs well with pork, chicken or fish. Only a couple of tablespoons are necessary per serving.

Pickled Beet Root with Daikon Radish
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Ingredients:

5 medium sized beets, peeled and cooked in salted water, about 1 teaspoon of salt
4 cups daikon radish, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 medium onion, sliced
8 whole cloves
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups beet juice
1/2 cup sugar

Procedure:
Cook peeled beets, cover in salted water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the beets to a cutting board to cool, save the beet juice in the pot. Take out two quart jars that have been boiled with the lids for 20 minutes. Divide the onions, uncooked daikon pieces, and whole cloves into the two jars. Put the vinegar, 2 cups of beet juice, and 1/2 cup of sugar in a pot and bring to a simmer long enough to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile cut the cooled cooked beets into the same size that you cut the daikon. Put the cut beets into the jars, and fill each jar with the hot vinegar solution. Fill the jars to 1/4 inch from the top of each jar. Tightly seal the jars with the clean lids and leave out on the counter to cool. When cool, refrigerate. They are ready to eat in about 24 hours. Makes 2 quarts.

Roasted Beet Bruschetta
Bruschetta is an appetizer from central Italy whose origin dates to at least the 15th century. It consists of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Variations may include toppings of spicy red pepper, tomato, vegetables, eans, cured meat, and/or cheese. I happen to be a big fan of roasted beets, which led me to creating my version of Bruschetta.

Ingredients:
1 pound beets
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon fresh chives
8 slices of crusty bread
garlic
extra-virgin olive oil
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:
Wash the beets, do not peel. Dry with paper towel. Place beets in a pouch made of heavy duty aluminum foil, large enough to enclose the beets. Sprinkle the beets with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Wrap the foil tightly around the beets. Place in oven and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour (timings vary from oven to oven). Test with a sharp knife, if it slides through easily, the beets are cooked. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Remove the skin, and cut into 1/4 inch cubes.

Preheat the broiler. Combine the beet cubes, caraway seeds, chives, salt, and pepper.

Rub the bread slices with half of a garlic clove. Brush olive oil on top of the bread. Toast the bread slices under the broiler until toasted. Spoon the beet mixture on top of the bread. Shave Parmigiano over the beet mixture, and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Roasted Beet Carpaccio
with Pickled Green Tomatoes
Roasted Beet Carpaccio
with Pickled Green Tomatoes

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Carpaccio is Italian. It is a side dish of raw meat or fish (such as beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna), thinly sliced or pounded thin and served mainly as an appetizer. While I was in the Caribbean years ago, I was served beet carpaccio in a French restaurant made from thinly sliced beets, placed in a circle on a bed of arugula, with a vinaigrette dressing. I have also seen thinly sliced roasted beets serve over thick yogurt, then sprinkled with dried mint, or thinly sliced roasted beets sprinkled with feta cheese, and garnished with watercress leaves. My version pairs the sweet taste of roasted beets against the tart and crunchy pickled green tomato. This is one of my favorite side dishes.

Ingredients:
4 small beets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt
pickled green tomatoes (see recipe)
dried dill for garnish

Procedure:
Pre-heat your oven to 400˚F.

Wash the beets, do not peel. Dry with paper towel. Place beets in a pouch made of heavy duty aluminum foil, large enough to enclose the beets. Sprinkle the beets with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Wrap the foil tightly around the beets. Place in oven and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour (timings vary from oven to oven). Test with a sharp knife, if it slides through easily, the beets are cooked. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Remove the skin and carefully slice the beets very thinly. Set aside.

Next, thinly slice the pickled green tomatoes. On a large serving plate or individual plates, arrange the beet slices overlapping in a circle. Now place several slices of pickled green tomatoes in the center of the beets, also arranged in a circle. Garnish with a sprinkle of dried dill. Makes 2 servings as an appetizer or a side dish.

Watercress Salad with Roasted Beets
Ingredients for the salad:
1 large bunch watercress, stems removed
2 medium sized beets (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt

2 small sticks of celery
1 Granny Smith or Pippin apple
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup roasted walnuts, chopped

Ingredients for the dressing:
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 teaspoon of mild curry paste
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
salt and pepper

Procedure:
Wash the beets, do not peel. Dry with paper towel. Place beets in a pouch made of heavy duty aluminum foil, large enough to enclose the beets. Sprinkle the beets with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Wrap the foil tightly around the beets. Place in oven and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour (timings vary from oven to oven). Test with a sharp knife, if it slides through easily, the beets are cooked. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Remove the skin.

Wash, drain and dry the watercress, removing the stems. Arrange on serving plates. Cut the beets and celery into thin slices. Wash, halve, core and slice the apple. Arrange the beets, celery and apple on top of the watercress leaves. Sprinkle the spring onions and walnuts over the top. In a small mixing bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve. Makes 2 servings.

Roasted Beet Gratin
Roasted Beet Gratin
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Ingredients:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound beet greens (about 2 large bunches), cleaned, stemmed, and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound of fresh whole beets
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated or ground
16 Ritz crackers, crumbled

Procedure:
Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Place whole beets in a shallow pan and cover with aluminum foil. Place in the oven for 45 minutes. When done, cool then remove the skins with your fingers. Cut beets into slices, then into sticks. Reduce the oven heat to 375˚F.

Melt the butter in a 12-inch saute pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and garlic and saute for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the beet greens and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens begin to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk together the eggs, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Fold the cheese mixture into the slightly cooled greens. Pour this into a lightly butter 9-by-11-inch baking dish. Evenly sprinkle the roasted beet stick on top of the mixture. Cover with heavy-duty aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with the crumbled Ritz crackers and bake for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until the crackers are warm. Cool for 5 minutes before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Beets with a Brown Sugar Glaze
Ingredients:
3 cups, 1/2- to 1-inch cubed beets
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Procedure:
*Trim beet greens (if any) and root end; peel the skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut beets into 1/2- to 1-inch-thick cubes, wedges or slices.

To steam on the stovetop: Place in a steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water in a large pot. Cover and steam over high heat until tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

To steam in the microwave: Place in a glass baking dish, add 2 tablespoons water, cover tightly and microwave on High until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Combine brown sugar, orange juice, butter, salt, and pepper in a large nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until the sugar and butter are melted and starting to bubble. Stir in beets and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the beets are coated with glaze, 6 to 8 minutes. Serve hot or warm. Makes 6 servings.

Sauteed Beet Greens
For years people have been throwing away one of the best parts of the beet experience. The leafy top of the beet root, when sauteed, make the most wonderful side dish that tastes like spinach. This cooking technique can be used for all kinds of greens, including kale, collard greens, and mustard greens.

Ingredients:
1 pound beet greens (2 large or 3 small bunches)
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
freshly ground black pepper
red wine vinegar
hot sauce (optional)
crisp bacon bits (optional)
hard cooked egg, crumbled (optional)

Procedure:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove the larger stems from the leaves, then wash the leaves in 2 rinses of cold water to remove any dirt. When the pot of water comes to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the greens. Blanch the greens for only 2 minutes, until tender. Transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking, then drain the ice water out from its leaves. Chop coarsely.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant and translucent, 30 to 60 seconds. Stir in the greens. Stir for a couple of minutes, until the greens are nicely seasoned with garlic and oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, remove from the heat, and serve with a few drops of red wine vinegar, hot sauce, and a sprinkling of crisp bacon bits, and/or crumbled hard cooked egg. Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Note: Beet greens reduce in volume by about 80%. Even though it looks like your are making a lot to start with, you're not.

Ukrainian Borshch
This borshch takes about 4 1/2 hours to prepare, but it's worth it.

Ingredients for beef stock:
3 pounds beef shanks or 2 1/2 pounds beef chuck on the bone, well rinsed
8 cups (2 quarts) cold water
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper

Ingredients for the soup:
1 pound beets, trimmed and peeled
3 large carrots, trimmed and peeled
1/4 large cabbage, shredded
2 large peeled and thinly sliced potatoes
2 large diced onions
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper
sour cream
fresh dill
lemon wedges

Procedure to make the beef stock:
Combine beef and water in a stockpot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer gently. Skim top surface until impurities no longer appear, about 30 minutes.

Add onion, carrot, celery and seasonings to the pot. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour or until meat falls off the bone, adding water as needed to cover.

Remove beef to a bowl and pull the meat off the bones, chop into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. Strain stock into a clean, heatproof container, pressing on vegetables to obtain maximum flavor. Discard vegetables.

Procedure to make the soup:
Cook the beets and carrots in the beef stock, covered, until tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from broth, let cool and then coarsely shred. Set aside.

While beets and carrots are cooling, add cabbage, onion and potatoes to broth. Bring back to a boil and simmer 20 minutes, covered, or until tender. Add beets and carrots, tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve in warmed bowls with a dollop of sour cream, fresh dill and a lemon wedge, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

Roasted Beet Chutney
The earthy flavor of the beet is balanced by tart apples, spicy cloves, cinnamon, and sweet raisins.

Ingredients:
3 pounds of red roasted beets (wrap beets in foil and cook in a 375˚F oven for 45 minutes)
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
2 medium red onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 teaspoon crushed red chilies
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons salt
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups apple cider vinegar
5 ounces sugar
2 ounces raisins

Procedure:
Peel and dice roasted beets into 1/4 inch cubes; set aside. In a large saucepan, combine the apples, onions, garlic, red chilies, cloves and vinegar; bring to a boil and let simmer 15 minutes; add the roasted beets, sugar and raisins; continue cooking for 15 minutes more. Remove cinnamon stick. Pour chutney into hot sterilized jars; cover and seal. If you're using within a week or two, there's no need to sterilize–just cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Serve chilled. Makes 2 quarts.
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