I KNOW, I’LL NEVER WIN A POPULARITY CONTEST by campaigning for beets, one of those foods that really divides a crowd. But when the group of food bloggers I’ve been collaborating with on Summer (and lately Fall) Fest proclaimed this week to be themed “Fall Salads,” asking what I’d put on mine, I knew what my other-than-greens ingredient would be. How do I love thee, Beta vulgaris subspecies vulgaris?
I love thee simply roasted, then skinned, sliced and tossed with Balsamic and oil—beets vinaigrette, so to speak, and a salad unto itself. (For a variation on the dressing, use fresh orange juice in place of some of the vinegar.)
I love thee (vinaigrette and all) on top of tender salad greens, whose slightly sweet taste offsets your all-undergroundly, Fruit-of-the-Earth flavor.
I love thee even better when a dollop of warmed chevre and a handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are the third and fourth layer in the above-described deal (top photo).
And sweetheart, you aren’t bad with crumbles of blue cheese and either walnuts or pepitas, either.
Roasting and Growing Beets
HERE AT MARGARET ROACH INC. World Headquarters, we roast a bunch of beets most weeks of the year. Simply trim the (edible) tops a half-inch or so from the beet (if you cut flush, the beet will bleed while cooking), wash the root, and place it in a Pyrex baking pan or on a baking sheet in 375 oven until tender, 30 to 90 minutes depending on size of the beet. A sharp paring knife inserted easily indicates doneness.
Everyone worries about all that pink juice–on their hands, on their pans. That’s why I use glass; I find that the glass pan is easier to clean than enamel or metal. Some much more expert cooks recommend wrapping each beet in foil first, or putting a little water in the pan then covering it with foil or a lid to bake the beets (which speeds cooking somewhat, and may reduce burned-on beet juice).
The tops, not incidentally, are highly nutritious and almost identical botanically to Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris subspecies cicla), which is called silverbeet in England and elsewhere. I grow one variety, ‘Bull’s Blood,’ above, mostly for its tops, which are a rich reddish color: beautiful and delicious.
Beets are wildly easy to grow, by direct-sowing seed in a well-cultivated bed (sun to part shade) starting as soon as the ground can be worked in spring, and re-sowing another short row or block every two weeks through midsummer.
The only trick: Each “seed” is actually a withered seedpod, containing the potential for two to four plants, so you must thin—best done by clipping the extras with a scissor—or there will be no room for any of the desired underground parts to develop.
Sound like a harsh sacrifice? Not really. If you time things just right, the baby greens you just thinned out make a delicious—you guessed it—fall (or spring, or summer) salad of their own.
Fall Salad Links from My Expert Friends
- Gilded Fork: Red & White Salad with Candied Pecans, Figs & Chevre
- Caroline at the Wright Recipes: Salt-Roasted Beet and Potato Salad
- Michelle at Cooking Channel: 5 Fab Fall Salads
- Liz at Healthy Eats: 5 Favorite Fall Salads
- Alison at Food2: Fall Salads, Deconstructed
- Alana at Eating From the Ground Up: Kale Salad
- Todd and Diane at White on Rice Couple: Arugula, Bacon and Fig Salad
- Caron at San Diego Foodstuff: Wheat Berry Salad with Apples and Pomegranate Seeds
- Nicole at Pinch My Salt: Spinach Pomegranate Salad with Apples and Walnuts
- Cate at Sweetnicks: Bleu Cheese and Walnut Salad with Maple Dressing
- Paige at The Sister Project: Chopped Salad That’s Also an Hors D’Ouevre
What’s a Fall Fest?
FALL FEST IS A cross-blog recipe (and tip) swap–and you’re invited to participate. Simply post your link or recipe or idea in the comments below my post, and also on the blogs of the other participants listed in the recipe links box just above.
Want more information on how it all works? Get the details (and the schedule for upcoming weeks, including our shift into Fall Fest last week after many weeks of Summer Fest, with a new logo but the same recipe-sharing routine). We’re continuing right into the Thanksgiving holiday.