Marinated Beets

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As a kid beets were one of the only foods I didn’t eat. My family was Greek and Italian and there were lots of other cultural pockets in Canton,  Ohio, a mid-sized, industrial town outside of Cleveland, where I grew up.  My mom would often send me to school with a lunch box filled with domathes (stuffed grape leaves), Feta Cheese and other strong smelling, strange looking foods. I didn’t get many offers to trade at lunch time, but I  did have the opportunity to develop a palate for a wide variety of foods.

However, my mom didn’t like beets. Because she seemed to like everything else, including liver (something I still can’t get into), I assumed they must be pretty nasty.

I actually had my first one while traveling. I was in India, working on a public health project in graduate school.  I was served beets, fresh from the garden, and they were delicious.  Of course, I assumed it was a fluke. Maybe because I was out of the country? I figured there was no way this was something that anyone didn’t like and that the ones in the US must be totally different.

After another year or two went by I began to get curious about beets again.  They were always so bright red sitting there at the salad bar. I started sampling them and to my surprise, every time, they were good.

One day Michael’s brother (he is often the inspiration for my cooking endeavors) brings over a jar of pickled beets. He says it is a new favorite of his. Admittedly, even after all my recent good experiences, I was still skeptical and so was my husband.

But he was right. They were great.

He instructed me on how to roast them and the rest is history. I make this recipe  just about every week and there is almost always a dish of marinated beets in my fridge.
This is one of the easiest and most versatile dishes. It keeps for at least a week in the fridge and goes with everything. My family’s favorite is on fish tacos or other Mexican food. But it makes a great side with a roast and other root veggies, on top of a salad, really with anything.

Beets have a beautiful color that brings energy and pizazz to any plate.  You can eat the greens. You can use them to dye your clothes or lipstick. They are really good for you with lots of vitamins like  folate, manganese, potassium and high in fiber.  (Plus they often turn your pee pink, which is a great incentive to get your three year old to eat up, my daughter loves to check the potty after eating them!)  Beets can be grown year round, so getting fresh in season beets is much easier than almost any other vegetable.

First buy some beets, preferably, fresh and organic. I usually do 2-3 large beets or 5-6 small ones at a time.  There are all sorts of varieties (red, Chiogga, golden and white) but keep in mind that red ones will dye the lighter beets if you mix them together.

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Trim the greens to about 1/2 inch from the beet and trim the little root tip off.  Then wash, until you remove the dirt.

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There are several different ways you can cook the beets. I sprinkle my beets with salt and rub with olive oil. Then wrap each in foil.

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Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 1 hour. You will probably need less time for smaller beets and often up to an hour and a half for larger ones.

Check by stabbing one with a sharp knife ( I just go straight through the foil rather than trying to unwrap). When they are soft and the beet is pierced easily all the way through, it is done.

Remove beets from oven and let cool.

I usually start this recipe early in the day, or the day before I plan on eating them so there is plenty of time for them to cool. But in a pinch you can carefully unwrap them to speed cooling.

Once cool, unwrap. Then peel with a pairing knife. The skins should be soft now and almost slip off.

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Now cut them up.  Beets have a great texture, they are soft but won’t crumble which makes them very easy to cut. I usually just dice them, but wedges look nice too.

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Place them in a bowl or serving dish and add a sprinkle of salt and a few splashes of either red wine or apple cider vinegar.

That is it.

These are great served warm, at room temperature or cold.

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There are lots of variations you can try. I often chop a tablespoon or two of onion to add a crunch.  You can also add herbs or ginger. I have read that Walnut oil is really good with beets, though I have never tried it.  Also, most other recipes call for olive oil, to be added a few minutes after you add the vinegar (if added too soon they don’t absorb the vinegar flavor as well).  I skip this step because I usually keep this in the fridge for a week at a time and I don’t like how the oil solidifies.

Enjoy!
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Marinated Beets

5-6 small beets or 2-3 large beets
olive oil
salt
apple cider or red wine vinegar

1. Set oven to 400
2. Trim the root and leaves if they are still on your beet
3. Rinse well
4. Rub beets with a splash of olive oil and a dash of salt
5. Wrap each beet in foil and place on a baking sheet
6. Bake until soft usually 45 minutes for small beets, 60-90 minutes for large ones, test by poking through the foil with a sharp knife, if soft it is done.
7. Remove from oven and let cool
8. Once cool unwrap beet and peel.
9. Chop beet
10. Toss with vinegar and a dash of salt.
11. Serve warm or refrigerate