Sunday, August 11, 2013

Farmers Market Beets

Yellow,  red and white spiraled, pink and this year I learned the name for deep, maroon beauties. The farmer called them "Detroits."  Maroon beets are the most common in our supermarkets but I think these organic heirloom beets, which my sister bought, were another step into beet heaven.

During the summer, you can find a range of color and flavor in the beet family at your farmers market.  I took home as many colored varieties as they had--a bright red bunch, the mild apricot-yellow ones and the red and white candy cane striped beets named for Chioggia, a fishing town near Venice, Italy. (The very Venice where they dress in Chiogga-inspired stripes, colors and other harlequin patterns during pre-Lenten Carnivale.)

Perhaps your own garden yielded some of beet's best colors this year.  When I first move to this neighborhood years ago, a neighbor dropped off a 5-gallon bucket of deep ruby beets.  Some were the size of a small of cabbage.  I was momentarily overwhelmed.  Then grateful-- we had the best borscht, orange scented beets and beet relish and a supply to roast for fall. 

Can you believe we did not yet know about beets and goat cheese?  That salad combination was about to hit the big time at restaurants everywhere.  It is still a favorite, twenty years later.  Our favorite home combination surrounds roasted beets on a bed of greens with a tart or soft cheese and pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) or roasted pecans. Here we had Camembert on hand, butter lettuce and roasted and salted pepitas.

That big beet windfall taught me how to prepare beets.  I tried a lot of methods to steam, boil, roast and even shave them thinly to eat raw and make into chips.  My favorite technique is to roast them in the manner that America's Test Kitchen recommends. 
  1. Cut off the stems, leaving about an inch.  
  2. Wrap washed but unpeeled beets in tin foil (wrap each individually if larger than a pin ping ball) and roast at a high temperature (400-450˚F) for 30-60 minutes.  
  3. Test for doneness by carefully unwrapping and pressing into the flesh with fork tines  
  4. When you can pass into the center, your beets are ready.  Remove from oven, open the foil and leave to cool until you can handle them (about 10-15 minutes).  
  5. Cut off tops with a butter knife and peel back skin with the knife or use a paper towel to easily pull away the skin.  
Beets are ready for salads, soup, or sauteed with a but of butter, cream and pepper.  Roasted beets will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for 2-3 days.