EATING WELL IN KANSAS CITY - February 2019
Beauty and the Beet
By Mary T. Nguyen
There are two types of beet lovers out there: Those who love them and those who haven't yet figured out they they do.
I forgive the latter group for their reticence or even confusion about their feelings.
Beets aren't the easiest vegetable to love. They're not like those other vegetables that don't stain your hands or come in gnarly shapes and sizes. The greens can be unruly and the stalks a fibrous chore to chop. Its earthy flavor is strong and, to its opponents, distasteful.
But all those negatives come with so many more positives if you're willing to look a little deeper.
That red stain? It's packed with minerals and nutrients that can provide energy, maintain healthy blood pressure and act as an anti-inflammatory. It's also a great natural dye and food coloring! It also makes for a great juice! If you don't want your hands or clothes stained, gloves and an apron should help.
All of those nutrients come from an exchange of the earth in which it was grown. That means that the more local and organic your beet, the more healthful properties it comes with. So perhaps you can forgive that earthy flavor for all of the super chemicals it's putting your body when you eat it.
And so there are countless ways to eat beets: raw, juiced, roasted, pickled, sauteed. The whole plant is edible and equally packed with nutrients, so there's a lot there to enjoy. I really love sauteed beet greens served with steak or eggs. The leafy greens are sweet and tender, not too dissimilar from spinach, which is related to beets in the amaranth family.
Here are two of my favorite ways to serve beets, one sweet and one savory. In both the beet is key, but its flavor not prominent. They are recipes beetniks will appreciate and might actually win over some skeptics.
Makes 4 burgers
1 1⁄4 cups cooked, cooled brown rice
1 cup cooked lentils, cooled
1 cup peeled, shredded beets
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 cup fine, dry bread crumbs
In a food processor, pulse rice, lentils and beets for about a minute or until the mixture resembles ground meat. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add salt, pepper, thyme, fennel, mustard, onion, garlic, egg and bread crumbs. Mix with your hands to incorporate.
Refrigerate until well chilled, for one to four hours.
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Using 1/3 cup for each, form mixture into patties.
Pour a little oil into skillet. Add patties to pan. Cook until charred on the edges and heated through, turning a few times, about 12 minutes total. (Burgers can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days, or frozen up to three months. Rewarm in a skillet before serving.)
Serve burgers on toasted buns with condiments of choice.
CHOCOLATE BEET CAKE
1 1⁄4 cups flour, sifted
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1⁄2 cup applesauce
1⁄2 cup canola oil
1 1⁄4 beet, pureed (See note below)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1⁄2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A 15-ounce can of beets in water, drained and pureed is 1 cup. You can make your own puree with four medium-sized beets. Peel and cut into 2-inch chunks and boil in water for about 30 minutes before pureeing in a food processor.
Preheat oven to 350. Grease 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. Combine sugar, eggs, and oil in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer set at medium speed for 2 minutes. Beat in the beets, cooled chocolate, and vanilla. Gradually add dry ingredients, beating well after each addition. Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in pan on rack. Cover and let stand overnight to improve flavor. Top with ganache or sprinkle with confectioners' sugar to serve
Mary T. Nguyen is the communications manager of Cultivate Kansas City, a homegrown nonprofit that builds foods, farms and community for a healthy local food system for all. Her favorite vegetable is the carrot. Her favorite fruit is lime. Learn more about Cultivate Kansas City at www.cultivatekc.org.