Beet it: Getting to the root of this fall favorite


Photo: John Robinson Photo: John Robinson

For those of you out there who don’t like beets, you’re missing out. Since many a beet-hater’s distaste comes from having first tried them in a can (instead of raw or roasted), it’s time to try again, but this time, without holding your nose closed. Beets’ hues range from ruby red to gold to pink-and-white candy striped, and their flavor—both earthy and sweet—makes them the star of the dish. These restaurants pay heavenly homage to nature’s treat, the beet!

At Blue Moon Diner, golden beets join mixed greens, tart Granny Smith apples, toasted sunflower seeds, and shavings of aged Parmigiano in a salad dressed with the diner’s house vinaigrette.

Pizza’s undoubtedly the mainstay on Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie’s menu, but you’d be remiss not to start your meal with its salad of shaved beets, local arugula, Caromont goat cheese, and spicy roasted pecans all drizzled with a balsamic reduction.

Mas tips its hat to the Middle East with moutabel—a spread (à la hummus or baba ganoush) made from beets, tahini, roasted peppers, and garlic—served with warm slices of charred-crust brick-oven bread.

Food was always farm-to-table in the colonial days and that’s how it’s stayed at Michie Tavern, where the buffet lunch includes whole baby beets to mitigate the potential health hazards of an entire plate of Southern-fried chicken.

While the scallops at tavola come out perfectly seared every time, it’s the day-glo pink leek and beet risotto that they’re perched on that makes the dish—and the white truffle oil doesn’t hurt either.

Zinc’s latest salad with beets, marcona almonds, mâche, compressed watermelon, bruléed watermelon rind, farro, farro puff crisp, in a pickled watermelon/cider vinegar dressing is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the mouth.

A, Beet, Cs
Beets grow locally in both the spring and the fall, taking about 60 days to mature. In the spring, beets should be harvested before the weather gets very hot, and in the fall, they should come up well before a frost or freeze is expected. Bellair Farm’s Jamie Barrett says that while spring beets store better (they’re bigger with a higher sugar content), the smaller fall beets are more tender and flavorful.

If not using right away, cut the beet greens off with about 1/2″ to 1″ remaining above the root and store them, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Beet greens, stored the same way, will last a few days.

The easiest way to capitalize on beets’ buttery texture is to roast them (scrubbed clean and dried) in a foil pouch at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour and 15 minutes, depending on their size. Beet greens, washed very thoroughly, can be wilted with garlic and olive oil and stirred into pasta, risotto, or alongside the roasted beets.

Sneaky beet
Beets aren’t just for dinner—they add moisture and a natural sweetness to baked goods, replacing additional oil, butter, or sugar. Try them in chocolate desserts like brownies and in red velvet cake, where their red color keeps things au naturel.

Scarlet stamp
Beets leave their mark on everything from your cutting board to your fingers, but you can keep your hands stain-free by wearing a pair of latex gloves or by peeling the beets under cold, running water. If it’s already too late, rubbing your pink fingers with a halved lemon should do the trick.

Sometimes called nature’s multivitamin, beets are among the top 10 superfoods with roots full of betacyanin, folate, manganese, and potassium, and greens packed with beta-carotene, iron, vitamin C, and calcium.