Meet the beet
A look at Judy Allen’s favorite veggie you still may not be eating.
If there is one vegetable that deserves a little more respect, it is the humble beet. We have spent our lives detesting, avoiding and bad-mouthing this veggie superfood, and every year I try again and again to praise its merits! Loaded with nutrients (high in folate, manganese and potassium), this ground-dweller can be prepared in a myriad of ways — shaved, grated or sliced raw into salads or slaws, roasted until sugary sweet or boiled for a pureed and chilled spring soup or a meaty winter borscht.
Beets are available year-round, but the best time to buy them is May through October, when they are at their most tender. Look for unblemished bulbs with sturdy, unwilted greens. In addition to the usual red variety available at most supermarkets, you may be lucky to find beautiful golden beets and pink-and-white striped Chioggia beets. All can be used interchangeably, unless you desire that rich crimson color. Be sure to keep the greens — they are loaded with beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron and calcium — for chopping into soups or sautéing for your favorite pasta dish. I love beets simply roasted, for their natural sweetness is heightened ever so slightly. This quick Mediterranean salad by famed cookbook author Martha Rose Shulman might just be the ticket to get you to try them!
Different versions of this salad are popular from Turkey to North Africa. Red beets are used throughout the Mediterranean, but you could make this pungent salad with any type. If you mix the yogurt into the beets, your salad will be pink. Martha prefers to spoon it over the top (serves 4).
Wrap 4 medium size beets in foil and roast at 425 degrees until tender, about 40 minutes; let cool, peel and cut into wedges.
In another bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar and toss the beets with the mixture. Season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper and let marinate at room temperature for about 2 hours.
Place 2 peeled garlic cloves in a mortar and pestle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and mash to a paste. Stir in 1/2 cup thick Greek-style yogurt and a tablespoon of minced dill. Serve stirred into or over the top of the marinated beets with additional chopped dill sprinkled over the top.