Root vegetables are ideal for roasting. Beets, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic—all take on a range of flavors missing from a raw or boiled preparation. The hidden sugars rise to the surface and caramelize, and the oven’s enclosed, indirect heat intensifies flavors. High-temperature roasting seals the surface, leaving the interior soft and moist, while low heat deters mushiness. Either way, the result is delicious.
Most root vegetables can be roasted in the same way: Cut them into pieces, coat them with some oil so that they cook rapidly and don’t stick to the pan, and spread them evenly and turn them occasionally for consistent cooking. Even beets and garlic can be roasted in this way. But I like to wrap these vegetables whole in foil, let this bonus layer and their natural skins seal in their juices and flavor, and then remove the skins and cut them down to size at the end.
Wash the beets to remove any dirt, scrubbing if necessary. Trim most of the stem and thin root ends off the beets, leaving about 1/2 inch of each. Place a layer of foil on a rimmed baking sheet, as large as the tray, and place the beets in a single layer in the center. Fold the long sides of the foil up over beets and then over each other, and then fold in the ends of the foil, pinching them closed to seal the beets into a packet.
Roast at 400°F for 45–60 minutes, until a fork pierces them easily but before the beets become mushy. Remove the beets from the foil and plunge them into a large bowl of ice water; cut the top and bottom off each beet, and rub it gently to remove the skin. If necessary, peel off the skins using a small, sharp knife. Use immediately in a salad (see below), or sprinkle with red wine or other vinegar, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper and serve as a side dish. Serves 4.
Tips & Tricks
- While you have the oven on, throw a head of garlic on the tray as well; you’ll want it for your salad (see below). Remove it after 20–30 minutes when roasting it at such a high temperature.
- I’ve tried many tricks for removing beet skins, and I’m convinced my homegrown beets have tougher skins than commercially grown ones. The best trick I’ve found is to quickly stop the beets from cooking by plunging them in icy water and then rubbing off the skins, but I usually need a knife to peel a few beets in each batch. If you have a better solution, please share it in a comment!
- Beets can be roasted ahead of time, sprinkled with a couple of teaspoons of red wine vinegar, and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a few days.
Twice as Tasty
Beets grow easily from seed in most soils and climates, and growing your own opens you up to a surprising range of varieties beyond the standard round, purple-red globe: golden, pink, white, striped, oblong, cylindrical. Their jewel-bright color and flavor remain intact when you roast them, whereas boiling can leech both into the water.
But as soon as you cut into a purple-red beet, it turns everything it touches a gorgeous dark pink: pale companion ingredients, cutting boards, your hands. Other varieties have less of a tendency to bleed and stain, but I don’t mind pink apples and garlic in a beet salad. If you do, build your salad in layers, with the beets below and lighter-colored ingredients, rather than tossing everything together. To enhance the beet flavor and color for a salad, lightly pickle them by sprinkling beet wedges or slices with red wine or other vinegar.
Roasted Beet and Cheese Salad
3 tart apples
about 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 head Roasted Garlic
1/4 cup Vinegary Salad Dressing Base
1 teaspoon Spicy German-Style Mustard
1/2 cup cashews, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons green onion tops or chives, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup crumbled cheese
Cut the beets into wedges and the wedges in half. Core the apples and cut them into similarly sized pieces; sprinkle them with and toss them in the lemon juice as you finish cutting each apple. Sliver or mince the roasted garlic; set all aside.
In a small glass measuring cup, prepare your salad dressing base and then whisk in the mustard. In a medium bowl, toss the beets, apples, and nuts with the salad dressing until evenly coated. Add the slivered garlic and most of the onion tops or chives, along with the salt and freshly ground pepper if desired, and toss again. Sprinkle the cheese and the remaining green onion over the beets just before serving. Serves 4.
Tips & Tricks
- The lemon juice keeps the apples from browning while you prepare the other ingredients, but it won’t stave off the beet juice. Add the cheese just before serving to avoid discoloring it.
- I typically toast nuts in my toaster oven at 350°F for a few minutes but use the full-size oven if it’s still warm from roasting the beets and garlic. Be sure to keep a close eye on them; they burn easily.
- I’m a fan of Humboldt Fog, a goat’s milk blue cheese, but substitute homemade feta or chèvre when I have it on hand. Other robust cheeses also pair well, such as sharp Cheddar. For a milder flavor, use Lemon Cheese.
- I tend to prefer red wine vinegar with blue cheese and balsamic vinegar with chèvre, but sherry vinegar or even apple cider vinegar can be substituted in your Vinegary Salad Dressing Base. You can add other flavors, such as rosemary and honey, if desired.
- We often eat this salad as a one-dish meal from bowls. For a more formal presentation, tear up about 1/2 pound of butter lettuce, arugula, or other greens; toss them in the salad dressing; and then divide them onto plates, topping them with the beet salad and cheese. Either way, I like to serve the salad with slices of toasted Sourdough Cabin Bread that have been drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with flaky sea salt.
Twice as Tasty will be on the road in October! If you live outside Montana, here’s your chance to learn more in a Twice as Tasty workshop—in your own kitchen, among friends, and with my personal help. For more details, click here.