Beets. One of the most underestimated vegetables in modern times. I’ve only recently begun to appreciate the sweetness and breathtaking hues of beets. Before last year I didn’t realize that you can eat beets prepared any way other than pickled, and I’m not crazy about pickled beets. But, a friend of mine recommended roasting or boiling them and serving them plain with goat cheese. I tried it and a whole world revealed itself to me. As I gazed into the scarlet puddles left behind after we’d eaten every morsel I realized I’d been missing out.

There are many different kinds of beets and if you can get your hands on a variety other than red you should try them; it’s fun to mix and match. This time I had one bunch of golden beets that I bought at the farmer’s market. It was one of those weak moments when I didn’t have a menu planned, I just couldn’t resist golden beets. So they’ve been sitting in my fridge waiting to be cooked. I decided after I bought them that I would cook both the beet greens and the beets themselves, so I snipped off the greens and wrapped them in a paper towel. Separating them from the beets will ensure that both the beets and the greens stay fresh longer. When you are shopping, look for beets with greens that are healthy and green, and roots that have firm, regularly shaped roots.

I couldn’t stop taking pictures of these beets. Even if you don’t like eating them you have to admit that they are beautiful:

My favorite way to cook beets is explained below. I learned it from Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables. You can also boil them, or slice them and then cook the slices. This recipe makes one dinner-sized salad (with some beets left over) or two side salads, and is inspired by my friend Brittany’s recipe which includes kale.

Golden Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

One bunch golden beets (I’m not sure how much this is weight-wise, maybe 2 lb.)
1 oz. or so goat cheese
walnuts (toasted if you like)
2 tbsp. olive oil
rice vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove tops of beets (if you haven’t already) leaving about 1/2 inch of stem. Wash beets thoroughly. Put them in a baking dish with a splash of water and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 45 min. to 1 hour, or until they can easily be pierced with a sharp knife. Uncover and let them cool. When they are cool enough to handle, cut off the tops and the tails and slide the skin off; it should come off easily. Cut each beet in quarters (or half if very small). Sprinkle with vinegar and salt and pepper. Let the beets sit for 30 minutes and absorb the vinegar. Alice Waters swears that the beets won’t be as good if you don’t give them a chance to absorb the vinegar.

While the beets are sitting, cut the stems off of the greens. Wash and dry thoroughly. Saute over medium-high heat with olive oil until greens have wilted nicely. Place on a plate, top with beets, goat cheese, and walnuts. Sprinkle with a little more rice vinegar and a small amount of olive oil (to balance the vinegar).