These healthy, easy marinated beets are like candy, once you try them you won't be able to get enough!
These easy marinated beets are a perfect example of the crazy way recipes sometimes come to fruition here at The Cafe.
I've always thought beets were just "so-so", I definitely didn't love them. Until recently that is...
"Beets?", I thought to myself as I saw them as a side option at a wonderful restaurant here in Raleigh. I had met my son Nick for a "date", during his lunch hour one day this past fall. "Their beets are amazing!", Nick said as he perused the menu. I was intrigued, but - not enough to order them.
Nick did order a side of beets to go with his sandwich. When our food arrived, I check out his pile of pretty beets. They didn't look like anything out of the ordinary, just beets. "Try these!", Nick said. I speared a little piece with my fork. Not expecting anything out of the ordinary, I popped the crimson wedge into my mouth.
Oh, my goodness! It was bursting with bright flavor and surprisingly delicious! Who knew beets could be this wonderful? I wished that I had been the one to order the beets that day, but had to be happy just sampling a few of Nick's. I did make a mental note though, to pick up beets next time I shopped.
Since my date with Nick, I've had beets on the brain. I've noticed beets on a number of other restaurant menus and have been dabbling with some beet recipes myself, trying to re-create that delicious, fresh flavor. After doing a bit of research, I decided to go with an uncomplicated technique from one of my favorite chef/cookbook authors, Alice Waters.
The raw, unpeeled beets are placed in a baking dish with a small amount of water, covered tightly and baked at 425˚F for approximately one hour, until nice and tender. (Roasting beets, in lieu of boiling, intensifies the flavor and preserves the beautiful color.) After cooling, the beets are easy to peel by simply rubbing them gently with a paper towel - the skins slip right off. The finishing touches are quick and easy; cut the shiny spheres in wedges, splash with your favorite vinegar and season with salt and pepper. A 30 minute (or longer) rest time is essential at this point to allow the vinegar to brighten and accentuate the flavor.
When ready to serve, drizzle these Easy Marinated Beets lightly with olive oil. That's it; according to Alice's technique. They're perfect just like this, although I like to add a shower of finely chopped fresh herbs. I happened to have rosemary on hand this time, but thyme, dill, mint or tarragon are also delicious.
Beets come in a variety of hues (pink, white, even two-toned) but the ones you see in most markets are the red and golden varieties. Either will work well with this Easy Marinated Beets recipe, although I'm somewhat partial to golden beets. They're a gorgeous color and make a lovely presentation in a salad or as a side. They also tend to be a little sweeter and have a mellower flavor than red beets. An added bonus is; they don't add a crimson stain to hands and transfer their color to foods they touch, like red beets do.
These easy marinated beets are delicious paired with sandwiches as well as in salads. They are delightful when combined with oranges, fennel, goat cheese, Feta cheese and just about any fresh herb. I'm thinking of adding them to this Arugula-Orange Salad next time I make it.
Because of their dense texture and sweet flavor, beets go nicely with entrees like pork, beef brisket, duck, ham, roasted chicken, salmon and swordfish.
Health benefits of beets
One last word about beets: they're not only delicious, but also super beneficial nutritionally! Beets are low in calories and loaded with essential everyday nutrients. They also have amazing health-boosting qualities. Here's the rundown:
- Beets are high in B vitamins, iron, manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium.
- They're also rich in nitrates which promote good circulation and can help lower blood pressure.
- Beets are rich in manganese which has an important role in calcium absorption, carbohydrate and fat metabolism and blood sugar regulation. Eating manganese-rich foods such as beets ensures your brain and nerves function at optimal levels.
- Studies have shown that beets can help ward off numerous chronic diseases because they are a good source of betaine. Betaine plays a vital role in cellular reproduction and liver function.
- Studies have been done showing that eating beets may enhance athletic performance by improving oxygen use and time to exhaustion.
- Beets are a good source of fiber, which is beneficial for digestive health. Beet fiber also helps to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides by increasing the level of HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Studies have revealed that beets can help prevent skin, lung, and colon cancer since they contain the pigment betacyanins, which counteracts cancerous cell growth.
- Beets are a great source of Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system and helps our bodies defend against viral and bacterial infections.
Do you think beets are just "so-so"? It might be time to re-visit this often overlooked root veggie. You may be like me and find yourself loving them, after trying these Easy Marinated Beets. Make a double batch, because they'll keep well for at least 4-5 days and you'll love having them all set for salads and sides. But don't be surprised if they get snitched (like candy) while you're not looking!
Café Tips for making Alice Water's Easy Marinated Beets
- The larger the beets, the longer they will take to become tender in the oven. That's why it's a good idea to look for beets of similar size for this recipe so they all get done at approximately the same time. If you find bunches of beets that are different sizes, no worries. Just check them after 45 minutes in the oven. Pierce them with a small, sharp knife to determine if they're tender and remove the smaller ones first. Let the larger ones bake for another 5-20 minutes, depending on the size. I usually check them every 5 minutes after 45 minutes.
- There are lots of different types of beets; some of them are beyond gorgeous like the striped heirloom-type beets (Chioggia). Any variety of beets will work in this recipe, although the striped ones will lose some of their vibrancy in the oven. I love golden beets, they're easy to find, sweet and not as "earthy" tasting as red beets.
- I used white balsamic vinegar in this recipe, but feel free to use your favorite. White wine vinegar, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sherry vinegar... all of these will be delicious!
- Regular balsamic vinegar would also be delicious, but the results won't be as pretty as the dark vinegar will cover the vibrant color of the beets, especially the golden variety.
- Once roasted, the beet skins will slip off easily. Use a paper towel to gently rub them off. The slight abrasion works perfectly!
- I love to add these easy marinated beets to salads and to serve them on their own, as a side. They also can be crushed slightly (with the bottom of a glass), then sauteed in a bit of olive oil until golden and crisp - super delicious!
- What to look for when buying beets? Choose beets that are heavy for their size with green tops still attached whenever possible.
- You'll find a lot of Café recipes calling for "freshly ground black pepper". Pepper freshly ground adds a wonderful finishing touch to so many dishes. There's a huge difference between ground pepper and fresh ground pepper. Do a "sniff test" to see what I mean. Grind a small amount of pepper onto a paper towel. Sprinkle another paper towel with pre-ground pepper. Take a sniff of each one. See what I mean? There's such a wonderful aroma from the fresh ground pepper. There are lots of great pepper grinders out there. One of my favorites is this (surprisingly) reasonably-priced, highly-rated iBunny Premium Stainless Steel Electric Pepper Grinder. You just push the button on the top and it does all the grinding! It even has a little light on the bottom so you can see exactly what you're doing.
- If you're desiring to incorporate more healthy veggies, like these Alice Water's Easy Marinated Beets, into your diet, but you're not sure how to put that into action, Alice Water's book Chez Panisse Vegetables is wonderful. It's loaded with delicious recipes; with an entire chapter per vegetable. I always know that Alice Water's recipes will be delicious and successful.
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P.S. We really appreciate all of you who have filled out our Café Reader's Survey 2018. Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging comments, your suggestions for future posts/recipes and your constructive criticism. We appreciate all of it - the information is so valuable as we plan for 2018. If you haven't had the time, or this is the first you're hearing about the survey, it's not too late! And it will take less than 5 minutes of your time. Thanks!
- 1 ½ pounds golden beets about 7-8 medium-size beets
- ½ cup water
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or your favorite vinegar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt more, to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper more, to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary thyme, dill, mint, chives or tarragon would also be delicious!
Preheat oven to 425˚F.
Remove the tops of the beets, leaving about ½ inch of the stem. Wash the beets thoroughly and place them in a baking dish; they will fit in without crowding. Add ½ cup of water and cover tightly with foil.
Bake for 45 to 1 hour, until the beets can be easily pierced with a sharp knife. If the beets are not all the same size, some may take longer. Remove from oven, uncover carefully (steam will be hot!) and allow to cool.
Cut off the tops and bottom tails of the beets. Rub the peel gently with a dry paper towel to remove. The skin (peel) should slip right off.
Cut beets in half, then in quarters or eighths, depending on size. Sprinkle with vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Stir gently. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes to allow the beets to absorb the vinegar.
Just before serving, taste and add a pinch of sugar if you note any bitterness. Stir gently. Season with a bit more salt and pepper if needed, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle herbs over the top.
See Café Tips above for more detailed instructions and tips.