This beet salad turns to the microwave with surprisingly good results
Wed., Feb. 22, 2023
Beet and Arugula Salad With Spiced Yogurt. (Tom McCorkle for the Washington Post/Food styling by Gina Nistico)
Beets can be so divisive. Some people love them. And other people are wrong.
For a long time, I was persuaded by the notion that the latter were good, well-intentioned folks who we just truly scarred from being force-fed the canned version when they were young. And I’ll admit, that isn’t the best way to eat them, but even they aren’t bad.
Honestly, we should have evolved beyond that by now. Remember the 1990s, when every restaurant was required to have a beet-and-goat cheese salad on its menu? Sure, it got boring after about 10 years, but that wasn’t the beets’ fault. That salad became ubiquitous because it was delicious. And if you don’t remember the ‘90s, then you’re too young to have been exposed to those cans of beets in the first place. For as long as you’ve been aware, fresh, earthy, roasted roots have been the default.
I love them, which the careful reader might have discerned from my general tone. I was fine with canned or pickled versions I had when I was a kid, but they became one of my favorite things when I started roasting them. Regular red ones were great, but I remember having to drive to five supermarkets to find one of the gold ones. I hunted them down like they were actual gold. Then I learned about the candy cane variety – chioggia – and it was just a flat-out quest to find those.
So I would eat any kind of beet, but my cooking method was nearly exclusive: Crank the oven to 400, cover them in oil and salt them, then wrap them in foil and let them roast for an hour. Sometimes I would roast my beets without knowing what I was going to do with them next.
Imagine my emotional roller coaster when I came across a recipe for a beet and arugula salad in the new America’s Test Kitchen cookbook, “Vegan Cooking for Two,” only to quickly realize that the beets were – it’s still weird to type this – microwaved? My initial high (Nostalgia! Delight! Intense interest!) quickly deflated (Confusion! Shock! Intense skepticism!).
I initially turned the page. I was kind of offended. But then I went back. At first I considered making the salad, but roasting the beets instead. I would then use this space to preach about how superior that method is and that we shouldn’t expose innocent beets to such a harsh cooking method. Then I decided that wasn’t fair. So here’s what I did:
I did my normal roasting ritual, and while they were in the oven, I peeled and diced another batch and nuked them, just the way the book said.
Despite the fact that I started cooking the roasted ones before the microwaved version, the latter were not only done first, they were nicely cool before the roasted ones were ready. But surely I’d find that roasting was worth that extra time!
It was not. Side by side, it pains me to admit, both of them were equally delicious on top of this bed of arugula with a spiced yogurt.
It probably will not become my new go-to method for cooking beets, because like those people who won’t eat beets at all, I’m entrenched. But I’m going to remember it. And I’ll probably do it again sometime if I need them cooked quickly.
Beet and Arugula Salad With Spiced Yogurt
Make ahead: The beets can be cooked up to four days in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve. The spiced yogurt can be mixed up to four days in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve.
1 pound beets, trimmed, peeled and cut in 3/4-inch dice (see VARIATION)
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon fine salt, divided, plus more as needed
1 cup plain plant-based yogurt, such as almond or cashew
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tender herbs, such as cilantro, mint or dill
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
2 cups (2 ounces) baby arugula
2 tablespoons toasted and chopped pistachios or almonds, divided
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, divided
In a microwaveable bowl, combine the beets, water and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cover the bowl and cook in the microwave on HIGH for 8 minutes. Stir and microwave on HIGH for an additional 7 minutes, or until the beets can be easily pierced with a paring knife. If any liquid remains in the bowl, drain, and let the beets cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, herbs, 1 tablespoon of the oil, the ginger, lime zest, garlic, cumin, coriander and pepper until combined. Divide the yogurt between 2 or 3 plates and spread it in a thin layer.
In a medium bowl, toss the arugula, 1 tablespoon of the nuts, 1 teaspoon of the oil, 1 teaspoon of the lime juice and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Divide the mixture over the yogurt on the plates.
When the beets are cool, add them to the bowl you mixed the arugula in, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil and the remaining 1 teaspoon of lime juice, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the beets between the plates, scattering them over the top. Garnish with the remaining pistachios or almonds, and serve.
VARIATION: If you’d rather roast the beets, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil, then place directly on the rack. Roast for about 45 minutes, or just until the beets can be pierced with the tip of a paring knife. (Larger beets may require more time.) Use tongs to transfer the wrapped beets to a work surface and open the foil to let the steam escape. Let the beets rest until cool enough to handle. When they are, discard the foil and peel; their skins should rub off easily, or use a paring knife, as needed. Cut the beets in 3/4-inch dice and proceed with the recipe.
Yield: 2-3 servings
Adapted from “Vegan Cooking for Two” by America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, 2022).
Tested by Jim Webster; email questions to email@example.com.
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