If you like beets, you’ll love them roasted. Roasting concentrates and intensifies their sweet, earthy flavor. There are a few little tips that I first learned from Jack Bishop’s Italian Vegetarian Cookbook that make the process easier and more successful.
First, cut the tops off the beets, leaving about an inch of stem beyond the top of the beet. This keeps moisture from leaking out of the beet, which would dry it out and make a mess in the cooking pot. The stem end also provides a handle when you are peeling the beet later. The beets usually have some dirt on them, but I don’t wash them since they will be peeled.
If the greens are fresh, by all means saute them in some oil and serve them. I need to do better at using the greens. Usually they are wilted by the time I get to roasting the beets.
Bishop’s method, and the one I followed for years, is to wrap the beets in an aluminum foil packet. I find I can get about three or four medium beets in a packet.
I’ve now switched to putting the beets in a big, ovenproof stockpot, putting the lid on, and putting the covered pot in the oven. Hat tip to A Veggie Venture for teaching me this method, which works just as well with a similar cooking time. Washing the pot took ten seconds or less, so I’ll roast the beets in a pot and keep a few pieces of aluminum foil out of the landfill.
At 375 the beets take an hour and a half, sometimes less, to cook. Check them after about an hour by sticking them with a fork to see if they are soft through to the middle. The beets won’t suffer if you bake something else at a slightly different temperature, they’ll just need more or less time.
Once they are done and cooled, the skins will slip right off. You could wear gloves or use paper towels to avoid staining your fingers. Or use kitchen towels like I do.
Trim the root and top after the beets are peeled. Here they are ready to use:
Serve them sliced into half rings, just as they are or drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt. Or add them cubed to a salad, where they go very well with goat cheese. Adding red greens to the salad like radicchio, red cabbage or red leaf lettuce looks very nice indeed.