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Just Picked: Four ways to enjoy sweet, earthy beets

Don't sell yourself short. When buying beets, be sure to look for unwilted leaves and make a plan to use the entire vegetable - from its dark red root to its leafy greens. ADRIANA JANOVICH adrianaj@spokesman.com (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)
Don't sell yourself short. When buying beets, be sure to look for unwilted leaves and make a plan to use the entire vegetable - from its dark red root to its leafy greens. ADRIANA JANOVICH adrianaj@spokesman.com (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

Go ahead, beet yourself up. And be sure to use the entire vegetable – from the deep purplish-red taproot to the slightly bitter greens.

It’s all good for you. Rich in nutrients and low in calories, beets can help reduce blood pressure and improve circulation. One cup of beetroot has 59 calories and is a good source of vitamin C, fiber, iron, folate, potassium, magnesium and manganese.

Sweet and earthy, beetroots are good in all kinds of savory dishes but also pair exceptionally well with chocolate. Add them to desserts such as chocolate cake, cookies, brownies and mousse. Or, use them to naturally color red velvet cake.

Roasting is the easiest way to prepare beetroots – the skin slips right off – and the most flavorful way to enjoy them. Dress them with vinaigrette. Add them to salads. Pickle them. Make your own crispy baked beetroot chips or a simple beet chutney. Puree them for soup.

Look for beets with unwilted leaves. And don’t toss those tops. One cup of beet greens has 22 calories and more than meets the recommended daily dietary requirement for vitamin A. Consider rinsing and blanching the greens as soon as you get back from the farmers market. They do wilt quickly.

My favorite way to enjoy them is simply sauteed with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. For additional flavor and a little heat, sprinkle red pepper flakes and squeeze fresh lemon juice over top.

Serve sauteed beet greens as a side, or include them in pasta or risotto or egg dishes such as omelets, quiches or frittatas.

Beet Chips

From Martha Stewart via marthastewart.com

2 medium beets

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Peel beets and slice 1/16-inch thick with a mandoline. In a large bowl, toss beets with extra-virgin olive oil.

On two rimmed baking sheets (or use one sheet and bake in two batches), arrange beets in a single layer. Stack another rimmed baking sheet on top of each. Bake until edges of beets begin to dry out, about 20 minutes. Uncover and rotate sheets. Bake 10 to 20 minutes, removing chips as they become lightened in color. Transfer to a wire rack; chips with crisp up as they cool.

Yield: 4 servings

Simple Beet Chutney

From “Mr. Todiwala’s Spice Box” by Cyrus Todiwala

2 beets, peeled and soaked in ice water for 15 minutes, then drained

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon red chili powder

2 lightly crushed green cardamom pods, seeds extracted

2 cloves

1 (1-inch) piece cinnamon stick

¼ cup sugar

Juice from ½ lime

Wearing thin rubber gloves if you want to avoid staining your hands, grate the chilled beets.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the beets and spices and saute for 10 to 12 minutes, until much of the liquid evaporates. Stir in the sugar and cook until it forms a thin syrup. Squeeze in the lime juice, then set aside to cool before serving.

Any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 months, sealed in a sterilized jar with a screw-top lid.

Yield: 9 ounces

Beet and Coconut Rasam

From “Mr. Todiwala’s Spice Box” by Cyrus Todiwala

¾ cup yellow or pink lentils

14 ounces beets, topped, tailed and thinly sliced

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 to 1 ½ quarts water

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

1 tablespoon sunflower or extra-virgin canola oil

¼ teaspoon black mustard seeds

10 to 12 curry leaves, preferably fresh (if dried, soak in water 10 to 12 minutes and dry thoroughly before shredding)

1 tablespoon coriander seeds, finely crushed

2 to 3 large while dried red chilies

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds

5 to 6 black peppercorns

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons tamarind pulp

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk, well shaken

Salt

Wash the lentils well until the liquid clears. Transfer to a bowl, add enough water to cover by 1 inch and let soak for a few hours.

Drain the lentils and place in a Dutch oven. Add the beets, onion and measured water, followed by turmeric and some salt. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and simmer until soft. Let cool a little, then blend the mixture with a blender to a puree or mash with a potato masher until free of lumps.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the curry leaves, coriander seeds, chilies, cumin seeds and peppercorns and saute over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until pale.

Add the pureed lentils and the tamarind pulp and bring to a slow boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes. Lightly whisk the coconut milk and stir it into the lentils. Discard the chilies, if you wish.

Serve immediately, or set aside and reheat later.

Yield: 6 servings

Sautéed Beet Greens with Garlic and Olive Oil

From Martha Rose Shulman via nytimes.com

1 pound beet greens (2 large or 3 small bunches)

Salt

1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, to taste

2 garlic cloves, minced

¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional)

Freshly ground pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil while you stem the greens and wash the leaves in 2 rinses of water. When the water comes to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the greens. Blanch for 2 minutes, until tender. Transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water, then drain and squeeze the water out from its leaves. Chop coarsely.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the garlic and hot red pepper flakes (if using) and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant and translucent, 30 to 60 seconds. Stir in the greens. Stir for a couple of minutes, until the greens are nicely seasoned with garlic and oil. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and serve.

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

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