Seasonal pantry: 4 ways to cook fresh beets
Do you have a difficult relationship with beets? If you were raised, as I was, on canned red beets in some sort of flour-based vinegar sauce, you might. Those beets were a pretty tough sell to a child, and it can take years to rediscover them. But it is worth it.
Beets, cooked and seasoned properly, are delicious and full of good nutrients. They are frequently proclaimed to be a superfood, with a positive impact on circulation and blood pressure.
If red beets seem overpowering, try golden beets. They are milder, like red beets with the volume turned down. They are delicious in soup and risotto and as a side dish. They do not overwhelm other flavors.
Chioggia beets, pale pink and white arranged in pretty swirls, are delicate, too, but have a pronounced earthy flavor and aroma, thanks to a higher amount of the compound geosmin. Geosmin is also responsible for that delightful aroma known as petrichor, the scent of the earth after the first rain following a long dry spell.
When it comes to red beets, there are many varieties, some not much bigger than your thumbnail and others enormous, as big as a bear’s claw. Some are oblong, like fat carrots.
Now and then you can find white beets, which are not as complex as colored beets. They are quite sweet and sometimes used to make sugar, though sugar beets are yet another variety.
For more beet recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives, visit “Eat This Now” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.
This soup is flexible and easily adapted to what you have on hand. No farro? Use barley instead. No chickpeas? Use a favorite bean. No chard or beet greens? Use kale. Don’t want any dairy? Serve the soup neat or top it with gremolata, tapenade, or Italian salsa verde.
Beet Soup with Chickpeas and Farro
Serves 6 to 8
¾ cup farro
— Kosher salt
¾ cup chickpeas, dried
6 medium beets of choice, roasted in the oven until almost tender, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
— Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 bunch chard or beet greens, tough stems removed, leaves chopped
5 cups homemade chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
½ bunch Italian parsley, leaves only, minced
— Black pepper in a mill
— Whole milk yogurt or creme fraiche
Fill a medium saucepan half full with water, add the farro, season with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until tender, about 35 to 40 minutes. Skim off the foam that forms on the surface of the water. Let the cooked farro rest, covered, for 10 minutes; drain off any water that is not absorbed.
Cook the chickpeas similarly, in plenty of boiling salted water, until tender; it may take as long as 45 minutes. Let rest in cooking liquid until ready to use, and then drain.
These two steps can be done several hours or a day in advance.