A simple and easy way to roast fresh summer heirloom beets. Roasting coaxes out the root's natural sweetness making them a perfect side to a light summer meal or a fantastic topper to an easy salad.
Beets are often categorized as a winter root served best when boiled or roasted as a hot side or chilled garnish to a salad. But for some reason, beets grow beautifully in southern Louisiana during the late spring months, and I’m always jumping at the opportunity to pick up a crate from the Saturday Farmer’s Market.
I recently had dinner with Jon Barry in which he ordered a steak, I ordered a salad, and he, to my passionate entreaties, ordered a side of heirloom beets. Jon hadn’t eaten the root in over ten years, and I wish I could have captured the look on his face when, fork in hand, his eyes widened, and he exclaimed, “these are divine!” Most people forget that beets are naturally sweet and when prepared correctly, can taste something akin to candy.
I’m not 100% certain what makes these beets “heirloom”–although it’s been explained to me that, quote, “it’s what the pilgrims used to eat”–I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the root’s unadulterated variety. Heirloom beets are vibrantly colored, naturally sweet, and come in several variations (the gold being the prettiest in my humble blogging opinion).
This recipe calls for a slow in roast in a hot oven, a technique that creates a self-caramelizing hot bed you can use when preparing the root. Simply wash, dry, and pop in the oven and allow time to do the work for you.
Whether you’re a longtime beet lover (as seen here and here), or one Jon Barry, you’ll find these beets go great warm from the oven or chilled on a summer salad. —Helana Brigman
Heirloom Beets (I used one purple and one gold)
Preheat oven to 400F. Wash beets by scrubbing with a vegetable scrubber or a good quality paper towel to remove dirt. Pat dry and snip off leaves and root tips.
Lay beets on baking dish on flat root-less side and toss with olive oil and coarse salt to taste. Roast for 1 hour or until beets are tender when pricked with a fork. Remove from oven, peel, quarter, and sprinkle with more coarse salt and pepper.*
*Cook’s Note: if using beets of various sizes, cooking times will vary. Check all beets for levels of tenderness and remove any beets that are done from the oven. Keep uncooked beets that still require roasting time in oven until tender when pierced with a fork. In most cases, you will only need an extra 10-15 minutes, but use the fork technique to ensure levels of doneness.