Spring vegetables are abundant at the farmers markets right now and you can expect to see everything from baby greens, like spinach and leaf lettuces, to beets, English peas and loads of fresh herbs.
Baby beets happen to be one of my favorite vegetables. They are easy to grow if you have the space, but are readily available at the farmers markets and grocery stores. Beets have an earthy flavor that can add complexity to almost any dish. I have used roasted beets to make pasta dough that was amazingly delicious and a beautiful presentation with its deep purple hue.
Growing up, I never really knew what a fresh beet tasted like. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I thought they came from a can. It wasn’t until later that I became smitten with fresh beets. Now I dedicate a fair amount of garden real estate to their production and have converted many a naysayer to the delicious ways of the beet.
Roasting beets is the easiest way to prepare them. Drizzle with a small amount of olive or grapeseed oil, wrap each one tightly in aluminum foil and roast in a 400-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, the skins will slip right off and they are ready to be diced, pureed or eaten whole with a dash of salt and pepper. I love pickling them once they’ve been roasted and preserving them for the cold winter months when fresh local vegetables are scarce. Pickled beets are a sweet, earthy addition to tossed salads and antipasti plates.
Beets (or beetroot) are a rich source of antioxidants and nutrients, including magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C, and betaine. Beets have been cultivated as far back as ancient Roman times and are revered for their ability to support health and longevity. Beets also contain nitrate, which, when converted by the body into nitric oxide, increases blood circulation and oxygen delivery to the cells, which in turn can be beneficial to heart health.
This recipe can be easily assembled while the beets are roasting and can be served right away or covered and chilled for later. The slightly sweet dressing is a nice compliment to the earthy beets and tangy cheese.
Spring Beet Pasta Salad with Baby Spinach and Chèvre
1 pound pasta, cooked, drained and cooled
3 medium beets, roasted, peeled and diced
1 bunch baby spinach
4 ounces chèvre
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
Salt and black pepper, to taste
In a large bowl add the cooked pasta, roasted beets, spinach leaves and chèvre. Toss lightly to combine.
In a small bowl add the grapeseed oil, honey and oregano and whisk to combine. Add to the pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Yield: 8 servings