The hot days of July are upon us so it’s time to harvest the root crops planted in early spring. that are still in the ground. We said good-bye to the radishes several weeks ago after the first heat wave of the summer. Warm temperatures cause radishes to bolt and become woody in texture. They will be planted at the end of summer for a fall harvest. The first planting of Japanese turnips have been harvested and now it’s time to harvest the rest of the beets.The”life cycle” of our beet consumption began with very small thinnings we add raw to our salads. The second thinning produces slightly larger leaves the size of spinach that are sautéed in olive oil with a little garlic and red pepper flakes for a wonderful side dish. Baby beets are sliced as thinly as possible or julienned and added to green salads.The Chiogga beets look pretty in salads, a slice looks like a candy cane bulls-eye and the Golden beets bring a pop of bright yellow.
I love beets, especially pickled ones. I have canned pickled beets in past summers for long storage, this year I thought I would make refrigerator pickles. Quick pickled baby beets couldn’t be simpler to make. These refrigerator pickles require very little prep and they are ready to eat after a few hours in the brine. Divide your beets by colors or they will bleed into each other. The brine is a touch sweet with a little spice. These pickles will last for several months in the refrigerator.
Quick Pickled Baby Beets
Makes 2 pint jars
1 lb baby beets, separated into colors
1 c white wine vinegar
2 t kosher salt
½ c sugar
2 T honey
Fresh ginger slices
1 t coriander seed
1 t black peppercorns
Wash beets well, trim off the leaves and leave about an inch of stem on the beets. Separate beets into colors if you don’t want them to bleed into each other.
Bring a medium pan of water to a boil. You can put all the beets of one variety in the pan, start checking the smaller beets at the two minute mark. Beets should be easily pricked with the tip of a knife, larger beets will take a few more minutes.
Drain beets well in a colander. Place in a heat proof container like a canning jar, separating out the varieties.
Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, honey and spices and bring to a boil. Pour the hot canning liquid over the beets and set aside to cool. Once cool, store in the refrigerator.
At the end of September we took a week long trip to Denver Colorado. Part of the time was fun, visiting Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Denver Arboretum. Part of the time was study, well at least for Joe, he was attending the Family Medicine Experience, gaining CME (continuing medical education) in anticipation of the boards he took last week. All of the week was fun for me, I visited a local winery and a teahouse, went to Red Rocks, toured the Coors brewing facility (free samples) and went to a Mexican cooking demonstration at a Denver restaurant.
One of my main jobs in anticipation of any trip we take is to choose the restaurants we will enjoy that week. I take my responsibility seriously, and it took some arduous research to find the best restaurants. This was not our first trip to Denver, previous trips included dinners at the then trendy Rattlesnake Club, now closed and The Fort, a restaurant that serves “new foods of the old west”. On a more recent trip in 2004, we were one of the first to dine at the newly opened Frasca Food and Wine, now considered by many to be one of the best restaurants in the country. So the pressure was on.
I skip over the ads at the top of the search engine, any restaurant can call themselves “the best” and Trip Advisor is okay but sometimes a family friendly or a breakfast only spot can be at the top of the list. I prefer to look at the reviews of the local city magazine when I do this type of research, for that I turned to 5280 magazine which refers to Denver’s mile high altitude and their yearly ranking of the 25 best restaurants. I skipped over the restaurants that weren’t in Denver (sorry Frasca!) also steakhouses and sushi bars because I didn’t think they would provide enough of the local flavor. I read the reviews, perused the menus and looked for where they were in proximity to our hotel, we didn’t necessarily want to be driving all night to get to our destination.
I discovered there are a surprising amount of restaurants whose names include the word “and “, Stoic and Genuine, Beast and Bottle, Colt and Grey were all restaurants we ate at. That doesn’t include Work and Class, Olive and Finch, Hutch and Spoon. Definitely a trend.
Another trend, and one we definitely approve of, is the number of farm to table restaurants. Although we had enjoyable experiences at all of the restaurants we dined at, the one that really reminded us of eating at home was Root Down, an award winning “field to fork” restaurant, housed in what was once a circa 1953 gas station. Every course was thoroughly enjoyed and documented with a photo on the IPad. One of our favorites was a dish that Joe had, a roasted baby beet salad. The beets, both red and golden were served on a bed of arugula with goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts. There was a dollop of beet pesto (!) and the dressing was a basil vinaigrette artfully drizzed in circles on the plate.
Now, the job would be interpreting the dish at home. The beet harvest in the Kipp garden was over so my beets came from the farmers market (red) and the supermarket (golden).Since I was using greens from our garden greenhouse I had a varied selection to choose from, spinach, leaf lettuces, claytonia, upland cress and yes, some arugula. The cheese varied in the Instagram pictures I saw, sometimes it was a slice of a creamy goat cheese, other times it was crumbles of chevre. The cheese on the salad at Root Down was from Broken Shovel Farm, a local supplier. I used a chevre from Giggling Goat Dairy, a supplier I became familiar with this summer at our local farmers market. I stayed with toasted hazelnuts, but I think walnuts would work just as well.
Beet pesto was new for me and at first I wasn’t quite sure what qualified this as a pesto. It is usually a sauce that combines an herb, most often basil, with nuts, olive oil and cheese. The definition of the word that pesto originates from is pestare which means to pound or to crush, so it does qualify as a pesto. I combined cooked beets, a dash of red apple balsamic, toasted unsalted sunflower seeds, a little lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. It turned into a delcious vibrant magenta sauce that would be great as a dip, tossed with pasta or as a sandwich spread.
I changed the vinaigrette to accompany the salad from basil, not in season now and not my first choice with beets to a tarragon vinaigrette. The anisy tarragon contrasts beautifully with the natural sweetness of the beets.
Roasted Beet Salad with Beet Pesto, Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts
For the Roasted Beets
1½ lb. each red and golden beets
Preheat oven to 425°F. Wrap beets in foil packets, separating by color. Place on a baking sheet; bake until beets are slightly soft to the touch, 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on their size. Cool beets in packets, then rub off skins (use a paring knife for tough spots).
For the Beet Pesto
1c cooked, roughly chopped red beets
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3c roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
2T tarragon leaves
1T apple balsamic vinegar
1T lemon juice
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
For the Vinaigrette
¼c apple vinaigrette or a white balsamic
½c roughly chopped red beets
1/3c extra virgin olive oil
2T tarragon leaves
Combine all ingredients in a small food processor and process until well combined
Assembling the Salad
6-8 c Baby arugula- I used a combination of greens from our greenhouse that included arugula
½c toasted chopped hazelnuts
4oz crumbled goat cheese
Roughly chopped roasted red and golden beets (from the first step)
Freshly ground black pepper
Add arugula to salad plates. Top with goat cheese, hazelnuts and chopped beets.
Add a dollop of beet pesto to the plate
Serve vinaigrette on the side.
Add a grind of black pepper to each salad as desired.
The good thing about cooking a ton of food for a holiday is that chances are, you will have lots of leftovers. The challenging part is finding ways to repurpose those leftovers into something different and delicious. Smoked turkey was good on a salad, leftover roasted vegetables topped our homemade thin crust pizzas. In previous years I made moussaka with leftover lamb, this year we decided on lamb wraps. In addition to the usual tzatziki sauce that I would serve with lamb, Joe suggested “something spicy.” I had some ideas but after googling it, found an interesting recipe for beet chutney.
As a beet lover, I enjoy their earthy quality and thought the sweet and sour quality of a chutney would be a nice contrast to the creamy coolness of tzatziki. The chutney comes together quickly and benefits from being made ahead, allowing the flavors to blend together. The recipes calls for a two inch diameter beet, which turned out to be just a little bit less than a cup. Tweak the sweet and sour elements to your own liking. I used golden raisins because that’s what I had on hand, dried cranberries might be nice as well. Dried cranberries would fit the color scheme and would fit right in with a Thanksgiving menu. The chutney would also be good as a appetizer on top of a cracker spread with goat cheese or Brie.
Makes about a cup
1/4c olive oil
1 ½c red onion
1 2-inch diameter red beet, peeled, cut into ¼ inch cubes
½c red wine vinegar
3T raisins (I used golden raisins)
2t chopped peeled fresh ginger
1t yellow mustard seeds
Pinch of cumin seeds
Heat olive oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped red onion and beet cubes. Cook until onion is tender but not brown, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes
Add ½c water. Increase heat to high and boil until mixture is thick, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar, raisins, sugar, ginger, mustard seeds, and a pinch of cumin seeds. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until beet cubes are tender and the chutney is thick, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings as needed and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool.
Poor maligned beets! With descriptors like, they taste like dirty socks, mud and even wood, it’s no wonder they have a bad rap to overcome. Unlike former president George H.W. Bush who disliked broccoli, our current president is on the record as a beet hater, thus they are not grown in the White House garden. Well all I am saying is “give beets a chance!”
Over the last few years I have developed a growing affection for beets. In addition to the traditional Detroit Dark Red we have been growing the candy striped Chiogga (kee-oh-ja) and the bright orange-yellow Golden beet.We grow small crops of a row or two in succession all throughout the season. Beets pulled fresh from the garden have a sweet, rich and yes, earthy flavor.
I like to take small beets and either julienne or thinly slice them raw for salads. Roasted beets are good either sliced or cut in wedges on a bed of baby greens with orange supremes, goat cheese and toasted walnuts.
This summer I found myself with too many beets to use in a short amount of time. I decided to pickle some so they can be enjoyed over the course of several weeks. Pickling, simply put, is a way of preserving in a vinegar or brine mixture. The acid in the vinegar slows bacterial growth and the beets keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.
I chose a recipe from Fine Cooking magazine that used both red wine and red wine vinegar. As with any recipe, use a red wine as well as a red wine vinegar that you would be happy to drink and cook with on their own. A word of warning, red beets will stain your fingers, if you want to avoid that, wear disposable gloves when working with them. They taste great right away and even better once they have a chance to chill in the fridge. You can enjoy them on their own or add a few along with their liquid to brighten up a hummus recipe. Don’t forget, the beet greens are good to eat. Remove any large stems, blanch in boiling water for about 2-3 minutes, Drain well and saute in olive oil with some chopped garlic and red pepper flakes.
Wine Pickled Beets
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts
2 lb. trimmed red beets (about 5 medium)
1 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 whole allspice berries
2 whole cloves
1 tsp. kosher salt
Put the beets in a 4-quart pot, add water to cover, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the beets are crisp-tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Peel and halve the beets. Slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick and distribute among three 1-pint jars or other sealable nonreactive containers.
In a 2- to 3-quart nonreactive saucepan, bring the wine, vinegar, orange juice, sugar, allspice, cloves, and salt to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, 3 to 5 minutes.
Pour the liquid over the beets to cover. Let sit, uncovered, at room temperature for 2 hours to cool and pickle the beets. Serve, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Make Ahead Tips
The pickles can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 6 weeks