Say what you will about Dwight Schrute, but his taste in root vegetables is unimpeachable. The beet is a wonderfully unique and versatile plant; unfortunately, many people are only acquainted with the pickled variety, the strong taste of which can be quite a turn-off. (I don't like them myself.) Fresh beets, on the other hand, have an earthy sweetness that adds flavor and depth to a variety of dishes.
- Borscht! This cold-weather favorite is an excellent use for a mammoth specimen -- perhaps one you forgot was lingering in your garden between the tomato vines. Peel and shred beets until you have enough to mostly fill your pan; add a chopped onion or two. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil and simmer until tender; add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. (Beets are flavorful enough that you won't need to use stock in this soup -- a special bonus for vegetarians.) The fun part is the garnishes: sour cream, chopped boiled potatoes and eggs, chives and dill are all traditional toppings.
- Salads: sliced thinly raw, or cooked and chopped, beets can be an addition to a green salad or a salad on their own. One of my friends makes a great slaw with shredded beets and apples, sliced scallions, and a mustardy vinaigrette spiked with garlic.
- Roasted: Beets are just amazing when roasted, comme toujours, in a 400-degree oven with a little salt and olive oil. Put them atop a green salad with goat cheese, walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette, and you have a delicious light lunch on your hands.
- Boiled with Greens: beets' greens are delicious on their own (cook as you would spinach or collards) but are also a great complement to the roots themselves -- making them a wonderfully frugal vegetable. Peel and cube beets; steam in a little water until tender. Add washed and chopped greens and cook a minute more; season with butter, salt and a splash of red-wine vinegar.
- Chips: If you're a fan of Terra Chips, here's a much less expensive way to duplicate the results in your kitchen: slice beets very thinly and drizzle with olive oil. Arrange on a baking sheet and top with another baking sheet (this keeps the edges from curling too much.) Bake about 15 minutes at 400 degrees; remove the sheet, flip beets and bake 15 minutes more, or until crispy. Delicious with tzatsiki!