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Beet it... just beet it. (Whoo!)

Posted Aug 06 2011 12:00am
All right, I suppose it will take more than goofy ‘80s references to make beets sound appealing. They’re one of those vegetables, like turnips and brussels sprouts, that comes loaded with negative baggage - who knows why, but personally I place the blame on comic strip characters whose wives and/or mothers are forever pushing on them healthy foods that (haha, so hilarious) taste awful. Come on, Hagar the Horrible, grow up and get with the program - beets are delicious!

As a kid, my exposure to beets was limited to borscht, a cold beet soup that doesn’t do a lot, in my opinion, to boost beets’ public image. Canned beets aren’t any better - like many canned vegetables, they’re unexciting. What really changed my outlook was a jar of locally made pickled beets, fermented the old-fashioned way and delicately flavored with onions and rosemary. Yum! I wanted to try making some at home.

So this spring we planted beets in our garden for the first time. Beets are a root vegetable, but only their feet are really underground; the rest of the vegetable pokes its head and shoulders out into the daylight, kindly giving you a chance to see how big it is before you pull it.

I haven’t gotten around to pickling our beets yet, but I’ve been eating roasted beets aplenty. Their natural sugars concentrate and caramelize in the oven, making them taste more like candy than any vegetable has a right to. Honestly, beets’ bad reputation couldn’t be more undeserved!

This recipe for roasted beet chips is adapted from The Gaining Ground Table, a cookbook released a couple of years ago by Gaining Ground , a nonprofit organization in Massachusetts that raises vegetables and donates them to food pantries. It's out of print now, but I hope they decide to produce more - it’s full of great ideas for cooking local food in season (including my own recipe for maple cranberry sauce ).

Which of your favorite healthy foods do you think has a public relations problem?  

Beet Chips

6 medium red or gold beets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash and peel beets, then slice as thinly as possible. A mandoline or food processor is really the tool for the job here, but a sharp knife will also work. Toss with olive oil, making sure to coat each slice.

Arrange beets in one layer on a baking sheet (for easier clean-up, line with parchment paper first). Sprinkle beets with salt, pepper, and chopped rosemary.

Bake until crisp, about 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through.
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