Although I’ve always loved beets, the thought of preparing fresh ones terrified me — I thought my kitchen would wind up splattered with very-staining, purple-red beet juice. Then I watched my house mother boil fresh beets when I lived in Costa Rica. Guess what? No splattering, no staining, no purple-red explosions. Quite anti-climactic, actually. But I’m glad that beets are so non-messy, because once you’ve had freshly boiled (or roasted) beets, you can’t go back to the semi-mushy canned variety. And as an added bonus, if you buy fresh beets with their tops still attached, you’ve got two ingredients for the price of one — chopped and simmered beet greens make a tasty side dish. (Treat them as you would curly spinach.)
Some cooks advocate boiling the beets whole and then “slipping” off their jackets — that is, their skins — after they’ve cooled. To me, this seems like excess work since boiling whole beets takes longer than boiling cut-up beets and because you also have to wait for them to cool before handling them. Instead, I prefer to peel their skins with a vegetable peeler (I recommend standing over the garbage while peeling and letting the scraps fall straight in) and then placing the peeled beets on a non-wooden cutting board to cut them into quarters or eighths (wooden boards are more likely to stain than non-wooden boards since the former is more porous). And obviously if you’re going to roast beets, you want to slice them while they’re still raw. But no matter which way you choose to simmer them, they’ll be great in your summer salads.
Fresh Beets with Broccoli, Beans & Feta
Serves as many as you wish. You might want to count on 2 small beets, a full broccoli “trunk” of florets, and a fistful of beans per person.
Raw beets, peeled, ends removed, cut into rough 1″ pieces (see above paragraphs for more details on how to handle raw beets)
Green beans, stem ends trimmed
Feta cheese, preferably made from sheep’s and/or goat’s milk
Fresh dill (optional)
Red wine vinegar OR lemon juice
Extra-virgin olive oil
Dijon mustard (optional)
In a large pot, simmer beets for 5 minutes. Add broccoli and beans and simmer for another 5 minutes. Drain promptly. Toss with Feta cheese, dill (if using), and a quick dressing made with the vinegar/lemon juice and oil. Figure on a ratio of 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar if you’d prefer a smoother flavor or equal parts if you like your salads more tangy. (I go with a 1:1 ratio.) If you like, whisk a little Dijon into your dressing before tossing it with the salad. If I don’t opt for the mustard, I often take the easy route and simply toss the salad with a drizzle of oil and another drizzle of vinegar. The mustard will make for a thicker, smoother dressing, though, so you might want to take the extra minute to whisk together your dressing before tossing it with your salad.
How many veggies you use and in what ratio is entirely up to you. My garden is bursting with green beans right now, so I used lots of beans; meanwhile, the broccoli is not as prolific, so the broccoli became the highlight rather than the main ingredient. Feel free to include cooked chopped chicken or shrimp, too.
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