I do not like beets. I will eat all sorts of strange vegetables like okra, turnips, and brussels sprouts...but I've never been fond of beets. I'm sure this aversion started with those rubbery rounds of beets that tended to be in any salad one ordered at restaurants years ago. The kind where the beet coloring would leak all over pieces of the salad making it totally inedible on my part. So last year when we started receiving our CSA box, and it always had some beets included, I happily gave away most of the beet bounty. Friends and co-workers were thrilled. Unfortunately they kept trying to give me wonderful recipes that incorporated said offending vegetable because they were sure that their recipe would cure me of my anti-beet ways. I almost came up with a "beet allergy" just to stop the kind offers. But I am weak and felt bad rebuffing their kindness so I decided to stop giving out the beets. I then figured I better use the beets in a recipe (which I knew I'd hate) so that when asked I could at least say I tried to like the beet.
Somewhere in my anti-beet mind, I remembered reading or hearing that roasting beets gave them a very nice complex flavor. Since I'm all for roasting vegetables, I went in search of a roasted beet recipe that would tantalize the taste buds (or one that wouldn't leave me with a scrunched up OHMYGODTHISBEETSUCKS look on my face). I came across many different variations on a theme...roast the beets, cook them with something (be it spinach, pine nuts, cheese, beet greens, chard), and lots of different types of pasta used to put the beet concoction over. But it was Viviane's linguine roasted beet recipe from the wonderful blog Food & Style that caught my eye. Her photograph of the finished dish was amazing! Such wonderful rich color to the pasta. I figured no way my dish would turn out that beautiful, but I was willing to give it a try.
I still hate beets. But oh my I loved this dish. I ate this for days (it reheated well). And the color! Wow, best presentation ever. It looked so appetizing served on a white plate with a bit of greens for a pop of contrasting color. And again, it didn't taste like beets. Or maybe it did. Suffice to say it didn't taste like any beet I'd ever encountered. The roasted beet flavor wasn't overpowering and maybe, just maybe, should I ever be gifted with some beets in the future, I'll keep them. If you are a fan of beets, then you really need to try this dish. Even if you are not a fan, maybe this will make you one. Just cook the dang dish!
Do check out the original recipe here from Food & Style. It's a wonderful blog full of great recipes and amazing photographs. I love her style section where I got some wonderful ideas on presentation of dishes.
LINGUINI WITH ROASTED BEETS, FRESH TARRAGON AND CARAWAY
(Reprinted with permission from Food & Style)
6 medium red beet roots - washed and trimmed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoons sea salt for the pasta water
1 lb (454gr) linguini
4 large garlic cloves - skinned and minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
3/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
tarragon sprigs as garnish
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (232 degrees C)
Step 1: Place the beets in a medium baking dish. Fill the pan with 1/2" water. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until tender. Remove from pan and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Step 2: Peel the beets with the back of a knife. Using a mandoline, cut the beets in 1/16" julienne slices. (If you don't have a mandoline, slice the beets crosswise in 1/8" slices and then cut them in julienned strips.) Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Cooks Note: The beets can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Step 3: Heat a large, non-stick heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add the oil, caraway seeds and beets. Saute for 10 to 12 minutes until the beets have caramelized, tossing from time to time (the beet slices will lose their moisture, shrink by half and look very dark around the edges.). Remove from heat and set skillet aside.
Step 4: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the salt and the pasta. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain well.
Step 5: While the pasta is draining, return skillet to the stove and heat over high heat. When the beets begin to sizzle, add the garlic and vinegar. Saute for 1 minute only, until the vinegar has completely evaporated and glazed the beet slices. Add the pasta, reserved pasta cooking water, fresh tarragon, salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and toss until the pasta is well coated with the sauce. (It's while tossing the pasta with the beets that the pasta acquires it's gorgeous red color. You'll marvel at how fast it happens and how intense the color is!)
Step 6: Spoon pasta in bowls. Garnish with tarragon sprig, drizzle with a little olive oil and serve immediately.
NOTE: I actually used a different recipe (which I can't currently find but will post if I do) to roast the beets.
NOTE: I did not use a mandoline, I used a knife which turned out to be pretty easy to do. I did roast the beets the day before to make it easier and quicker to put together the dinner after work the next day.
This is probably one of the top ten dishes I've ever made. Surprisingly good flavor (considering it included that disgusting vegetable call a beet), and such a vibrant looking dish to serve to guests!