Pantry Staples: Roasted Beets and Pickled Beet Greens

Beets are a year-round veggie staple here in California. The varieties available to us vary throughout the year, but beets in some form are available at just about every farmers market around, not to mention the big grocery chains. And like potatoes, they’re crazy adaptable, perfect in spring salads, earthy breakfast hashes, and chocolate cake. They’re better roasted than boiled. We scrub them clean, trim their greens and wrap them in foil to roast in a hot oven. Roasted beets are easy to peel once they cool a bit. They’ll keep in the fridge for a week in a sealed container.

Garden variety red beets are sweet and delicious. But if you’re able to get your hands on some beautiful golden or variegated varieties like chioggia beets, buy them. Their colors are beautiful and less likely to “bleed” than dark red varieties like Bulls Blood. We’ve roasted beets that look like jewels after roasting, with beautiful golds and pinks swirling around in them. They’re a fun way to play with color and texture in all kinds of dishes.

When we’re on our game, we buy beets with greens, rather than trimmed bulk beets, because the greens are delicious and they’re nutritious, long stalks and all. They’re tender enough to eat raw, but their mild flavor makes them endlessly useful in any recipe that calls for fresh greens. We use them in soups and risottos for added color and bite. We really love these pickled beet greens. They’re crunchy, vinegary and a little spicy, the perfect partner to anything you’d embellish with hot sauce or salsa or pickles. Of course, you can pickle just about any green, but if you’re looking to put a bunch of beet greens to better use than building compost, pickle them.

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Roasted Beet Roots

A bunch of beets (4-5 beet roots) with the greens intact
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the stems from roots, setting the stems and leaves aside in cold water to clean and hydrate. Scrub the beet roots with a bristly brush to remove all mud and dirt. Dry the beets with paper towels.

On a baking sheet or in a roasting pan, place a large piece of aluminum foil in the bottom, enough to fold over the beets. Place the beets in the center of the foil and drizzle about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over them. Sprinkle liberally with salt, 1-2 tablespoons. Seal the beets inside the foil. Put the tray in the oven and roast for 40-60 minutes or until a knife pierces a beet easily. Remove from the oven and let cool for about an hour. Once cool enough to handle, using paper towels, peel the skins off the beets. The skins should easily slip off. Sometimes a paring knife is useful for peeling the beets if you want to take a more fussy approach.

Once the skins are removed, the beets can be sliced, diced, or served quartered. Keep them refrigerated and use in a salad or add to potato hash.

Pickled Beet Greens

Stems and leaves from a bunch of beets, and/or other greens
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
a good pinch of chili flakes
a good pinch of salt

In a medium pan, fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Meanwhile, clean and hydrate the beet stems and leaves in a bowl of ice water. Spin dry and separate the stems and leaves. Chop the stems into 1/8” pieces. Set aside. Combine all the leaves as tightly as possible, layering leaves on top of one another. Roll tightly, chop into 1/8”-1/4” strips. Chop the strips a few times to get smaller pieces. Set aside.

Add a pinch of salt to the boiling water then add the beet stems. Simmer for 3 minutes, then add the beet leaves. Simmer for 3 more minutes. Drain the stems and leaves (the water can be saved and used to flavor soups). Move the hot greens to a mason jar.

Over medium heat in a small pan, heat the vinegar, sugar, chili flakes, and salt. Heat until it almost comes to a boil. Pour the hot vinegar over the stems and leaves. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature until the stems cool completely. Once cooled, refrigerate for at least three days before using.

Add pickled beet greens to salads, soups, toasted bread, pizza, rice bowls.

Roasted Golden Beet Risotto with Beet Greens

A bowl of golden comfort food.

Almost all recipes evolve from a previous one. Very few occur out of thin air to the point of being new and original. This recipe is an adaptation of a Melissa Roberts recipe for Gourmet (Pasta with Beet Greens/Diary of a Foodie: Season Three: Farm to Fork). We have prepared Melissa’s recipe more times than we can count, but we thought it was time to replace the pasta with Arborio rice and to include both the beet greens and the beets they were once attached to. The concept of roasting beets in the oven until they are tender and sweet is something we enjoy any time of the year and we thought it might be interesting to replace the traditional winter squash with roasted golden beets in a creamy risotto to take the edge off our cool Winter/Spring weather.

Our evolved roasted beet risotto has a beautiful golden hue that looks almost too good to eat – almost. One bite and we knew that this dish was a winner that could easily be served in as a gorgeous first course or main course for vegetarians (or vegans, if you omit the Parmesan cheese). No one will miss the meat with the earthy and sweet flavors, plus all the olive oil and pine nuts give it just enough fat to satisfy and comfort your inner carnivore.

Thank you Melissa and Gourmet for the inspiration. If Melissa or the folks from the now defunct Gourmet are reading our blog (we miss you Gourmet) give our recipe a try. We think you’ll agree that your beet green pasta recipe has evolved into something truly golden.

Roasted Golden Beet Risotto

1 bunch golden beets with stems and leaves (about 3-4 medium sized beets)
4 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 cup dry vermouth
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 medium onion, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese (optional)
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the stems and leaves from the base of the beets and place in a bowl of water to wash thoroughly. Cut the stems from the leaves and separate. Chop the stems into ¼” pieces and the leaves into ½” strips. Scrub the beets and place on a layer of aluminum foil, fold the foil over the beets to form a “package.” Place the beet package on a cookie sheet. Roast the beets for 40-60 minutes or until a knife can be easily inserted. Allow to cool before handling.

In the meantime, heat the vermouth in a pan until just simmering then add the raisins and cover. Allow to seep until you are ready to add the vermouth to the Arborio rice.

Heat four cups of water with 2 teaspoons salt in a separate pan until barely a simmer. In a large Dutch oven, add the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and toast, watching very closely so they don’t burn, for just a few minutes. Remove the pine nuts from the pan. Add the minced onions and beet stems to the pan and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the Arborio rice to the pan and saute for 3-4 minutes until the rice is slightly toasty. Strain the vermouth into the pan and stir until all the liquid is absorbed. Set the raisins aside for later. Gradually add ½ cup to 1 cup of water to the rice and continue to stir. Allow the rice to absorb the water before adding more water. Total cooking time should be about 20-30 minutes. Before the last addition of water, add the beet greens and stir thoroughly.

Once the beets are cool enough to handle, using paper towels, gently rub the beets to remove the skins. Dice the beets into ¼” pieces.

When the risotto is completely cooked, remove from heat and add the Parmesan cheese, beets, and toasted pine nuts. Stir one last time before serving and top with additional Parmesan cheese or a drizzle of olive oil or both.