Monday, January 25, 2010

This Beet Goes On

I am a firm believer that everything tastes better when it has been roasted. Roasting seems to bring out the best in vegetables, and beets are no exception.

Betacyanin, the magenta pigment that gives beets their fabulous colour, is contained in vacuoles inside the beet cells, and these cells and vacuoles are very delicate. As soon as the beet is cut or heated there's red dye everywhere. But leaving the skin in tact helps keep all this pigment locked inside. If you've ever boiled beets, you'll notice you end up with cooked beets and red water. Let's not waste all that cancer-fighting pigment, and we'll do that by roasting our beets whole!

Factoid: Betanin is a commercial food dye obtained from beets. Make your own chemical free red food colouring following these steps.

If your beets still have their greens attached, snip them off. Give your beet a good rinse and rub it down with a little olive oil. Tightly bundle your beet in some aluminum foil and pop them in a 400 degree oven. Cook the beet until it's soft (I usually test it by sticking a knife in - if it slides in with ease, your beet is done!). This should take about an hour, but may take more or less time depending on the size of your beet. You can cook it in a lower temperature should you want to multi-task, suppose you're baking banana bread, lets say. Keep in mind, this will obviously take longer, but your beet won't be as lonely in the oven all by itself.

After your beet comes out of the oven and has had a chance to cool off a bit, the skin should slip right off with ease. It is now ready to be added to salads, or whatever it is you decided to cook your beet for.

You may have noticed that beets are very sweet. In fact, beets have the highest sugar content of any vegetable. But fear not, waistline watchers, they are still very low cal. Because of this sweetness, they form excellent relationships with fruits, as demonstrated here in my sweet and fruity salad of the week.

Factoid: The common sugar beet, Beta vulgaris, is grown commercially for sugar production. It is 15-20% sugar by weight. You can read how beet sugar is processed here.

Week 4: Fruity Beet Salad
makes 2 big salads

1 beet, cooked & sliced
1 orange, seperated into wedges
1 apple, sliced
greenery of choice
sunflower seeds or slivered almonds

This salad pairs well with any sweet and/or fruity dressing. I made my own gingery-orangey dressing (included below), but there are a number of store bought dressings that I think would be tasty. Try poppyseed, raspberry, catalina or mandarin orange with sesame.

Gingery-Orangey Dressing
3 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp* sugar, honey or other sweetener of choice *or to taste
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp orange zest
1/4-1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger to taste

Whisk furiously with a fork til well blended, drizzle over salad.

Salad Challenge Countdown
Salads made: 4 Salads left: 48

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