Oh where to start with beets? You either love them or hate them, in my experience, and it’s not so easy to convert a beet-hater into a beet-lover but it can be done! The most common complaint I hear is that they are too earthy which leads me to believe the person ate beets from someone who doesn’t know how to cook them and makes me determined to change their mind. Obviously, I am in the beet-lover camp.
Here’s the thing, beets really need to be slow roasted. The roasting process brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetable and concentrates the flavors and color. The end product is silky smooth and perfect for tossing in salads, adding to sandwiches, pickling, pureeing for cupcakes (gasp!) and soups, and adding to dips like this beet hummus. There are other methods of cooking beets – quick roasting, boiling, steaming – but the flavor and/or color will suffer from each.
And there are so many reasons why you should be eating beets. For one, in many places they are in season year round, needing temperatures around 50F-60F to thrive. Where I’m at, in NYC, our best beets hit the markets in fall and spring. They also contain a ton of nutrients making them a great health food choice. Loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron, vitamins A, B and C, beta-carotene, beta-cyanine, and folic acid, these babies actually help fight cancer, lower blood pressure, aid in the production of new cells and the cleansing of your liver, and can boost the effectiveness of your workout if eaten as a pre-workout snack.
Beets themselves come in many varieties: red, the most common, golden, Chioggia (candy-stripped) and white. I personally prefer red because they have the most flavor. The key when buying beets is to only buy beets that still have their stems in tact. This helps prove their freshness and keep their color and flavor. But, once you get them home you should trim them because the stems will leech nutrients out of the beets. To trim, cut the stems about 2-inches above the beet and either discard the leaves or wash and sauté them if they are in good condition. You also want to scrub the beets clean as they typically have a layer of soil on them similar to potatoes. Once they are dry you can store them in your refrigerator for a few weeks before cooking.
Allergy note: Of course, it is possible to be allergic to beets or have a beet intolerance, though it seems to be relatively uncommon. I can’t find a lot of information on it other than it typically presents itself as a gastro issue. Like with other allergens, your body sees the beet protein as a harmful substance and triggers an allergic reaction. If you’ve experienced this before definitely talk to a doctor. Unfortunately, you just have to avoid consuming beets, which may be a happy situation for some but would be so saddening for me.
A common side effect that you should not be panic over, however, is red coloration of your pee and bowel movements. Don’t worry, it’s not blood! You’ve just consumed enough beets to turn everything a reddish color.
Let’s get cookin’. To roast beets, you need a HOT oven, 400F-450F depending on your oven’s attitude (mine is an opinionated brat) and a long time. Once your beets are clean and dry (skin on!), place them on a large piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with enough olive oil to coat each one and sprinkle with a healthy pinch of salt and pepper. For added flavor, add some thyme leaves as well. Then wrap them up so they are completely covered in foil, place on a baking sheet, and roast them for 45-60 minutes, depending on size. Test them with a fork before completely unwrapping to make sure they are done. The fork should easily slide into the beet with little to no resistance.
Let the beets cool for a good 15-20 minutes before peeling to ensure you don’t burn your fingers. Once cool enough to handle, cut the tops and bottoms off then use a paper towel to gently rub the skin off. The skin should easy peel off if the beets are fully cooked. While doing this, make sure to wear an apron – beets stain! Don’t worry about the stain on your skin as it will wash off after a few hand-washes.
Your beets are now ready for any number of delicious uses. But we’re going to focus on a vibrant pink, intensely flavorful beet hummus today. My father in law detests beets and he loved this beet hummus. It’s color is the real draw but the flavor is so, so good. You taste the beet but it’s not overwhelming. It’s the perfect balance of sweet and savory to add to an otherwise traditional hummus base. Other than the time it takes to roast and prepare the beets, it’s a really quick snack to whip up before friends come over or if you just like to keep hummus on hand like I do.
You only need a handful of ingredients: chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, beets and salt and pepper. If you want a little spice you can add in some ground cumin as well. Chop up one and a half of your beets into smallish pieces to be added to the hummus. With the remaining half, carefully chop into little cubes to be used as garnish and set aside. Then add everything into a food processor and blend away!
Notice something wrong with this picture? ^^ Yep, I was so focused on getting a pic that I forgot to add the blade in before I added the ingredients. I’m still getting the hang of this! Anyway, you want to blend until the mixture is smooth and no chunks remain. Transfer the hummus to a pretty dish, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, beet cubes and salt and pepper, admire it’s beautiful bright pink color, and enjoy with veggies, pita bread, or whatever else your heart desires.
- 15oz can chickpeas, drained
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 Tbsp tahini
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp cumin (optional)
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp fresh group black pepper
For the roasted beets:
- 2 small beets
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme, de-stemmed (optional)
- To prepare the beets, preheat oven to 400F, drizzle beets with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme leaves. Wrap in foil and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a fork can be easily inserted. Remove and let cool until cool enough to handle. Remove skins and chop: one and half beets into rough pieces and the remaining half into small cubes to be used as garnish
- To prepare the hummus, combine beets and remaining ingredients in a food process and mix into a smooth paste. If the mixture is too thick, add water 1 teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.
- Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with olive oil, reserved beets and salt and pepper.
Let me know if you’ve tried this recipe! Comment below or post a photo to instagram with the tag #champagneandfrites.