Beets are a workhorse in my summer kitchen, great tossed into salads or served on their own in light vinaigrette. That sugary-earthy essence is enhanced with the sharp notes of citrus and vinegar, and delicious with sharp Cheddar, pungent blue cheese or tangy chèvre.
Roasting beets sweetens and enhances their flavor, though steaming or boiling takes less time. However they are cooked, beets will keep, unpeeled in a plastic bag or covered container, at least a week in the refrigerator. Loaded with vitamins and minerals, they are great to have on hand at mealtime.
The all-staining juice that seeps from a cut beet will mark everything it touches — your fingers, that new white T-shirt, your blue jeans. To avoid that, it’s best to cook beets with the skin on and the plug of stem in place, then peel and slice or dice just before using. Golden beets and the Chioggia beet, with scarlet and white concentric rings, make cooking and cleanup far less messy.
Beet greens, as is true for collards and chard, are tough and need to be tempered with a little heat. Although most recipes call for steaming the greens first before sautéing, I’ve found that covering the pan after the greens have been added does the same thing.
Use the following recipe as a guide to enjoying beets and their greens and adjust the seasonings to suit your tastes. You might substitute lemon or lime juice for the orange juice, or replace the citrus with a shot of sherry or balsamic vinegar. Try different herbs such as tarragon or thyme instead of the basil and mint. This dish is delicious warm or room temperature. Top with crumbled blue cheese or a round of chèvre. The beet goes on and on into fall.
Beth Dooley is a Minneapolis writer and cooking instructor.