Beets are Yummy!

Dinner:  January 23, 2008

I have a little notebook which I carry around with me, and as inspiration strikes I jot down ideas for meals or combinations of ingredients I’d like to try. As the weather turned colder and the selection of local veggies at the Greenmarket got smaller, I began to think about beets. Which, historically, neither of us has been particularly crazy about. At all.

But in our continuing quest to broaden our palates, we decided to give beets another chance, so from time to time I would write down a few thoughts about what to do with them. There was borscht, obviously, and also some sort of beet/goat cheese combo, but I like to think my best idea was this:

beets + beet greens + farro + bacon

Because really, what doesn’t bacon improve?

So when I sent Mike off to the Greenmarket yesterday morning, I asked him to pick up some beets, preferably with the tops still attached, as well as some of our favorite Tamarack bacon. He reported back that the only beets he could find were trimmed, but he was kind enough to go back at lunchtime and pick up some young red chard at my request.

After weighing my cooking and cleaning options, I decided to roast the beets in a foil pouch. I placed them into a 375 oven for about an hour and got to work on the rest of my ingredients while they cooked. I chopped four strips of bacon into about 1 inch pieces and placed them into a skillet to fry. In a separate pan, I cooked a cup of farro until it was tender but not too soft. When the bacon was crisp, I removed it from the fat and set it aside, and then removed about half of the fat and set that aside as well.

When the beets were cooked and cool enough to handle, I peeled them with a paring knife and cut them into chunks. I tossed them in with the cooked farro, then added the bacon and gave it all a gentle stir. I warmed up the fat that was still in the pan from cooking the bacon, added one finely chopped garlic clove and cooked it just until fragrant, then added my roughly chopped chard and a pinch of salt. When the greens were just wilted but still bright green, I removed them from the heat and added them to the beet/bacon/farro mixture. I placed the reserved bacon fat back into the pan to warm, then poured it, along with another pinch of salt and a healthy splash of sherry vinegar, over the mixture and gave it another stir.

The farro turned a rather comical shade of fuschia when it was tossed with the beets, but I have to admit that the deep red beets and bright greens were a nice change of pace from the red/brown palette of our recent meals. But did this dish change our minds about beets?

I’m pleased to report that it did. As I suspected the combination of flavors worked really well together, and the flavor of those roasted beets was far, far superior to anything we had tasted growing up. As it turns out, beets are yummy. Who knew?

17 thoughts on “Beets are Yummy!

  1. Yeah, those pesky canned beets will scar you for life.

    My wife tells a story that her grandmother sometimes made beet aspic with a whipped mayonnaise topping. Always a bit of a shock for young taste buds expecting cherry jello with whipped cream.

    I had to learn to like them when I was asked by kitchen managers to make borscht for some occasion or another. Didn’t take long for me to overcome my dislike. But, we have several friends who can’t stand them, so they aren’t always a safe choice for dinner parties.

    Roasted beets are the best. Combine fantastically with citrus and a simple vinaigrette over a salad of bitter greens. Goat cheese is also a classic taste combination.

  2. Now, I am with most who have only had beets from a can. Frankly, they were bland and yet memorable. My mom wasn’t the best cook. This dish looks like something I would try because, despite the lack of flavor of the canned beets, I still kinda liked them.

    Now the way you have done them here, I think you have done them justice. I will definitely try!

  3. I am a huge fan of roasted beets, especially if you leave them in long enough that the edges caramelize. So good.

    I also once made a beet salad recipe from the Zuni cookbook that had watercress and walnut oil – fabulous!

    But I don’t think I’ve ever tried them with bacon…hmm…

  4. Jennifer Hess says:

    claudia – you know, I think I probably would have still liked it sans bacon. Mike, not sure, but I’ll ask him. :)

    erik – that aspic preparation sounds… interesting. ;) Do you have any favorite borscht recipes?

    Donald – well, cooking them this way has made believers out of us – give it a try!

    Jessamyn – I really need to get a copy of Zuni – I keep hearing such great things!

  5. If you roast your beets with some olive oil, redurrant jelly, garlic, thyme and balsamic vinegar, they make a great salad with some soft goat’s cheese, and the juices are an instant dressing.

  6. One of my favorite risottos features roasted beets, beet greens, walnuts, and goat cheese. Though, the next time I make it, bacon and its fat may be my starting point. And, I’d like to substitute the arborio rice for the more healthful farro.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas and results!

  7. Jennifer Hess says:

    Stu – oh, that sounds wonderful. Definitely something to try!

    jennifer – YUM. Walnuts would make an awesome accompaniment to beets. I’ll definitely keep that in mind!

  8. ed bruske says:

    Beets definitely are the best–especially fresh beets. We try to have some growing in the garden at all times. Roasting seems to intensify the flavors.

  9. Those beets look wonderful. I’ll eat any vegetable and like it. Beets are my favorite from a can, but I would love to try the fresh. I’ll definately try your recipe. Yum!


  10. I, too was wary of the beet for far too long, despite my mother’s love for them and their appearance at many a meal in my childhood household. I just couldn’t get beyond the earthy topnotes of their taste.

    This dislike of them went on, that is, until I discovered the bright, buttery and citrusy flavor of the golden beet. Like stu’s mention, all they need to shine is a simple roast, a bitter green component, and some additional citrus. See –

    even Alice Waters knows what’s what. let’s eat.

  11. [shwn] says:

    If you weren’t married already, I’d propose!

    Why can’t I find a woman that cooks in New York? Every girl I date thinks cooking is something grandmothers and house wifes do. I once dated a girl that kept her law books in her oven. The girl I am dating nowz idea of cooking is butter noodles– which she eats on a saucer because she has no dishes. Ok, that’s kinduh cute to actually watch. I love to cook and hope to find a woman that I can share this joy with. Any tips on how I might go about this?

    By the way, you guys take great pictures. They make me hungry. Your picture of the pot pie has inspired me to go to Northeast Kingdom for one tonight. They make a really good chicken pot pie.

    Cheers, and keep up the good work!

    [shwn], Bushwick

  12. SallyBR says:

    Haven t been able to find farro around my neck of the woods – but this could work with barley, what do you think?

    I love beets – but to convince my beloved husband to go for it, I will need to double the bacon!

    (great post, as always)

  13. Jennifer Hess says:

    Hillary – If you haven’t tried them roasted I”m going to have to encourage you to do so. :)

    Becky – they’re totally different roasted than from a can – they get really sweet this way. Try them!

    Sarah – and this is exactly why I’m annoyed by my orange allergy. :)

    [shwn] – Aw, shucks! Thank you!

    SallyBR – I bet barley would make a great substitute. Give it a shot and let me know what you and your husband think!

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