Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The whole beet

We've got whole baby beets in our farm-share last week -- leaves, stems, and tiny little ruby red roots. The newsletter we got with the farm-share suggested cooking the whole thing and this got me thinking about the culinary concept of "whole." While I am in complete agreement with the idea that every part of the beet can be eaten, but I think this lovely vegetable deserves a bit more explanation. "Whole" is one of those dangerous words that has too positive of a connotation in the food world. Whole Foods marketing people knew what they were doing when they named the store. But I've noticed that "whole" often implies some degree of laziness or ignorance on cook's part resulting in a less than fabulous dish served with more fanfare than it deserves.

My approach to cooking something "whole" is to divide and conquer. I use the same approach with beets as I do with swiss chard. I separate the roots, the stems, and the leaves. They all have different textures and thus, different cooking times. I wash and dry all three parts very thoroughly (for the leaves, I use the salad spinner). While cleaning the roots, I trim the tops where the stem are coming out and the long skinny tails that come out of roots' bottoms.

Before you stop reading and run away thinking that this will be some fussy preparation requiring 3 pans, let me first assure you that it will only require 1 pan and 5 minutes active time (30 minutes total cooking time). The results are seriously yummy.

Roasted Whole Beets

1 bunch young beets (5-8 small roots with stems and leaves)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 whole unpeeled garlic cloves
2 Tbsp heavy cream
Handful of finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
  1. Clean and prepare beets according to above instructions.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400F and set a rack in the bottom third.
  3. Cut the beet roots in half (or small wedges if they are larger than 1.5 inches in diameter). Cut the stems into 1/2 inch long pieces. Cut the leaves into 1 inch pieces.
  4. Place the roots in a 10 inch skillet (or oven-safe baking dish). If your roots are 1.5 inches in diameter or smaller they are tender enough to roast with the stems, so you can toss the stems right in. Otherwise, give the roots a head start in the oven (as long as 20 minutes before adding the stems for beets that are 2.5+ inches in diameter). Drizzle the roots and stems generously with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add 2 whole unpeeled garlic cloves and toss to distribute oil and salt evenly, then turn beet roots cut-side down. Place in the bottom third of the oven and roast until tender and browned, about 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in the leaves and return to the oven until the leaves start to wilt, about 3 minutes. Stir and return to the oven until the leaves are completely wilted, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add heavy cream, season to taste with salt and stir well. Sprinkle with finely grated parmesan cheese and return to the oven. Cook until cream bubbles, and cheese melts, about 5 minutes.
Serve on toast as an appetizer, as a side dish to meats, fish, and chicken, or my favorite -- tossed with home-made potato gnocchi and a dollop of butter.

51 comments:

Ann said...

I really like your advice... and I can't imagine what a mess an attempt to "cook the whole thing" would have resulted in!

Christine said...

Yum! Speaking of CSAs my CSA cited your recipe for bluefish two weeks ago in its newsletter when we had the option of receiving a locally caught filet in our share. (Mercury be damned, I hadn't had bluefish in years.)

It came the cite to your blog recipe, and I found it hilarious because I had just checked you out using google to figure out what to do with it.

I am madly in love with my CSA. It's like a little surprise each pickup.

judy ep said...

I find the easiest way to roast "whole " beets is to cut the tops off..wash the beet roots, do not peel them. Place the beet roots onto a large piece of heavy duty foil, drizzle with olive oil, add a few sprigs of thyme, s&p. wrap up the foil and seal it tightly and roast the beets in a 425 oven for about an hour. let cool and the skins will peel right off. I wash the tops and saute wiith olive oil, and garlic. slice the beets ond place on top of the cooked leaves. maybe a little goat cheese or blue cheese and walnuts...OMG delish

Helen said...

Hi Christine,

Glad you are enjoying you CSA :) Which one do you subscribe to? About bluefish: please don't worry about mercury, particularly in such a small fish as bluefish. I looked into the mercury issue in great detail since I had a baby a year ago, and here is what I found out.

Cheers,
-Helen

jo said...

It's funny, one of my stepdad's favourite things are beet greens. He was raised in Maine and my mom who ate them growing up was raised in Vermont. At any farmer's market I atend, you generally see large 3 inch diameter or more beets with green attached. ASt this stage, they can be very tart and a wee bit tough. Up in Maine, we can hit the farmer's market and get the beet greens with teen tiny beets attached, maybe a half inch in diameter or less. That is when my family loves them. We float them in a sink full of water for 3 or 4 rinses and then steam them ad serve them with a wee bit of butter and loads of vinegar. yum!!!
Keep getting people to eat them and maybe we'll see them this way down here!

Christine said...

Hey Helen,

I'm not all that worried about mercury intake. I don't have any children nor am I pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant. I eat canned tuna with some frequency and according to some reports should be planning a funeral sometime in the near future ;)

My CSA is Greensgrow Farms in Philadelphia. You can check them out at greensgrow.org. They focus mostly on local with some organic, but the caveat is it must be local. In additions to fruit and veggies, I get a choice of a dozen eggs, milk, or butter with each pickup as well as some sort of loal meat or other goodie (ie - a pound of ground pork or a dozen pierogies), and then I get a local cheese.

I am really thrilled with them.

acey said...

oh my gahhh!!! that looks so good!!! i'm glad i came across your blog. i've been looking for yummy but healthy stuff to make!!! i hope it's ok i can borrow recipes. :)

Jim said...

hmm

Debra said...

Roasted Whole Beets? interesting..im going to try it

Mina Jade said...

Wow, nice advices.
Suddenly I realized that I was hungry :-)

Sorina said...

You have a nice blog...keep up the good job:)

a said...

Just found your site, what a treat! The layout of the blog is lovely too. I roasted some beats on the grill last night (I'm in Boston too and it was too hot to be in the kitchen!). I used a similar method as the poster Judy ep, but I cut the beats into chunks, added a little leftover pickling juice, olive oil and s&p. It's a quick process, my were firm but tasty after about 6 minuets. If you don't leave them on too long like that suppose they would be good in a cold salad too.

Xaxeila said...

Linda foto de culinaria!! Pretty cooking photo!!

Helen said...

pickling juice? you mean from cucumber pickles? That's a really cool idea since it's salty and tart and generally yummy.

Wade Chimerofsky said...

I love your advice! it really has inspired me to continue cooking!
thank you!
and good eats!
check out my blog:
wadesworld123.blogspot.com

a said...

Pickle juice, or, anything that you have. I pickled some onions, red pepper, cucumber, etc with some dill, etc. (whatever I had) and made a light pickle juice. Then we dumped it on salads later in the year. We opened our last jar the other day to pour over a salad with fresh produce - yumm!

Then, I just poured the left over juice onto the beats. It was pretty mild - kid friendly. I forgot to mention that I added some fresh red onion (chopped fine) and it was a hit with everyone. My mom would pickle beats, so that was the inspiration!

Flattered that you like the idea. I love food so feel free to email me!

Megan Coyle said...

looks delicious!

andrew said...

Love your enthusiasm! You are providing a desparately needed public service: delicious food, deliciously told. Reminds me of picking beets on the farm... there's a topic for a future post. Check out my blog: http://www.run-salmon-run.blogspot.com. Run, Salmon, Run! And if you've still got energy after that, keep running with the salmon here!

France And Italy 2007 said...

This looks quite yummy!!

San Francisco Photos said...

I'm really interested in making this. I've had a pretty big dinner but I still would like to have some of this!

Anonymous said...

Great idea, I've a garden full of little beets, off to give it a try, thanks

Music Lovers said...

nice

Clay said...

awesome food blog!

lusia said...

hi I really interested in your post.I have read some of your post it is really nice.thanks for sharing with us,bye

SURVIVOR SERIES said...

mouth watering

Nataly said...

Roasted Whole Beets.....
I was looking for this recipe for long time, thank you :o)

Mr. Nissan said...

You could start a cooking show. This blog is well put together

Musync said...

This looks pretty yummy! WOuld love to try sometime soon.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on being selected as the 'blogs of note'. I am a vegetarian but I did think your blog was beautifully presented. Could you tell me how you photograph food so well? Tips would be of immense help. Thanks.

Great Gifts said...

Great site, great recipes. Thanks for sharing!

My Year Without said...

What heavenly recipes you have....
What mouth-watering pictures you share....
I am adding you to my blog (all about going without sugar in 2008) because seriously, fish/sushi (and i mean REALLY good fish fresh from the market) have been interestingly satisifying at a meal and i don't crave dessert after dinner. Dinner is the dessert. Only a perfect piece of fish can do this. Thanks for sharing!

Kay said...

Adding that to my recipe book. Sounds lovely!

allaboutattitude said...

hmm ...... looks so good .. even the final touches!

Pete said...

It looks good. Gonna try it out. Thanks for the recipe.

Billy said...

Hello, this is Billy.

I really loved this article and would like to
subscribe to a newsletter, if when available.

My email is:

filmbay3@yahoo.com

THanks very much,

Billy Watson, Filmbay Editor

Melissa S. said...

gorgeous photos & blog! check out my blog- i also have recipes!

limevegetarian.blogspot.com

Nuvalostlamb said...

can I come round yours for dinner?? ;0)

Why It's Lame said...

Looks delicious! Nothing lame about that!

Why It's Lame said...

I'm gonna try salmon for the first time tonight. Hope it's tasty! Thanks for the tips.

sweenaowh.blogspot.com said...

What can I say! Your blog is really yummy! I am feeling hungry already!

Keep the good stuff coming.

Lucky Koi Boutique said...

I really love your blog! You should make a recipe book and sell it on etsy or something. <3

San Francisco Photos said...

Nice ... I want to try this!

anita said...

Can anyone explain to me what parts of the beet the roots and stems are? The greens seem pretty self explanatory but in my head a "whole" beet is greens on top of what I would call the beet (the round part) and maybe a rooty part extending out of the beet part. I tried looking for a diagram but came up with zilch.

Helen said...

Hi Anita,

The roots are the round deep burgundy round things. The leaves are the flimsy green things with thin red veins and the stems and the thick red veins that attach the leaves to the roots. They run through the center of each leaf.

Cheers,
-Helen

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Candis said...

First of all, may I come live with you? (seriously) OMG this food looks fantastic. I just downloaded one of those lists the other day called "foods you're probably not eating but should" or something like that. One of the recommended foods was swiss chard and another was beets - and here you are! Love it!
Your blog looks great - very inviting! www.thinkwriter.blogspot.com

grup hepsi said...

You have a nice blog...keep up the good job:)

GreatBlogs said...

This sounds yummy! :) I need more beats in my diet.

MenuIdeas.blogspot.com

Daniel said...

Hello Hellen.

What an interesting recipe. I never thought that you could roast beets. It looks quite delicious. Too bad I can't smell the picture!

Lisa said...

Just tried this recipe using all 3 parts of the beet. We loved it! But is there a way to make the leaves a bit less bitter?
Lisa

Helen Rennie said...

This time of year, the leaves won't be tasty. They are usually good when the first beets of the season appear and the roots are the size of golf balls :)