Time: 1 hour || Active time: 10 minutes
I have a bittersweet history with beets that starts in PS 272 Brooklyn NY, Mrs Sklar’s third grade class. We went on an outing to a farm in Queens (the farm is gone now) and everyone was assigned a vegetable to dig up. Little hands furrowed for potatoes, and pulled at the frilly green carrot tops. But when it was time to leave, I still had no vegetable. Instead of saying anything, I just went along with the rest of the class, them with their veggies still dripping with soil, me with nada.
When one of the pretty hippie girls who worked there realized that my hands were empty, she led me over to the nearest patch, which happened to be beets. We dug for a few minutes until we pulled out a beet as big as my head. I held it like a baby and the whole bus ride home was filled with intense jealousy from the other students and their lesser veggies.
When I got home, I left Beet on the kitchen counter and just stared at him. After a few weeks I had memorized every bump. I hadn’t ever seen a veggie fresh from the earth, never mind a beet. I had no intention of cooking Beet, it didn’t exactly smell like food to me (read: french fries or pizza) but I loved that he was all mine. Weeks went by and Beet was mostly okay. I noticed a little wrinkling, but no matter. One day I came home and Beet was gone and I cried and cried. And that’s my sad story.
It would be years and years until I actually tasted a beet, at a Polish diner, in a bowl of warm borscht. The flavor was a little shocking. Dirty, fresh and sweet and probably still too adult for my tastes. But it was a start.
Now I am a beet fanatic. I crave them fresh and raw in salads, potent and alive in juice. And even though my tastes are more grown-up now, I still want sweetness, especially as a way to punctuate an otherwise savory meal. These Caramelized Beets do the trick, and it doesn’t take many ingredients to get there. Use them scattered alongside mashed potatoes and seitan, or over your scrambled tofu, tossed into salads, or grains (beets and quinoa = heaven.) They’re crisp and sweet, with just a little tanginess to accentuate the flavors. When you eat them, think of Beet, looking down on us from where ever he may be.
2 lbs beets, peeled and sliced into 3/4 inch chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (plus extra for drizzling)
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
On the baking sheet, too the beets with olive and salt, to coat. Place in the oven and bake for 50 minutes, tossing every 20 minutes. Drizzle on the balsamic, toss the beets to coat, and cook for 10 more minutes.
Serve warm and drizzle with extra balsamic to taste.