To cook fresh beets, wash them really well, the lop off the leaves. You can chop the tops up and steam them. If they're small and tender, you just need to bring them to a boil and they're ready to serve. Sprinkled with a little rice vinegar, they're perfect as a side dish. If they're a little tougher, just boil them for a few more minutes, usually about five will do it. The stems and leaves are a lot like Swiss chard or kale. If you don't mind them turning the soup purple, you can toss a handful in your favorite vegetable soup or stew recipe.
Take the beet and chop off the root next. If the beet is small, you don't need to peel it. But the peels can be tough and not very tasty, so go ahead and peel your beet. Once it's peeled, rinse it and you're ready to chop it up however you like. Slice it thin, cut it in strips, cut it in little cubes, whatever you like. Put those bits in a saucepan and cover just barely with water. Bring it to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about five to ten minutes until the beet pieces are fork tender. Go ahead and serve it plain, or try some of these variations with beets. (Here's a great recipe for spinach and beet salad)
You can also use beet juice to color Easter eggs or make pickled eggs or other dishes. It's a great food coloring, just don't cook it too long or the color turns into a really nasty shade of gray.
|Star anise picture from meridian botanicals website|
1 large beet, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
1 star anise (look for it in the spice aisle, it's anise
shaped like a star, it has a mild black licorice flavor)
water to cover
Put the beet chunks in a small saucepan, cover with water. Drop in the star anise. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the beet is tender. Remove the star anise before draining and serving as a side dish.
Quick Pickled Beets
1 can shoestring or diced beets
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1/3 c. white vinegar
Open the can of beets and drain them. Dump the beets into a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and salt. Pour the vinegar over and gently toss to mix everything together. Let sit for at least thirty minutes. Stir again just before serving.
You can dress these up with a few whole cloves, anise seeds, cinnamon sticks, or other sweet pickling spices.
Purple Potato Salad
(I thought for sure I'd posted this. No idea how I missed it. This is a dill version, but you can use your favorite potato salad recipe, just add beets to turn it that lovely purple color.)
4 medium potatoes, diced
1 c. canned beets, diced
1/2 c. celery, sliced
1/2 c. onion, diced small
1/3 c. dill pickles, diced small
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. lemon juice
1 t. celery seed
1 t. garlic salt
Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until fork tender, about fifteen minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, mix everything else in a large bowl. (If using fresh beets, use the directions at the beginning of the post to cook them.) When the potatoes are done, drain well and add to the rest of the mixture. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about two hours. Stir again, then refrigerate until ready to serve. The beets will turn the whole salad a lovely shade of purple.