Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

Featured Item—Beets

I can’t think of another vegetable that polarizes people more than beets. Folks tend to love them or hate them. I am one of those “odd birds” that fell in love with canned beets as a kid and have just grown fonder of the vegetable as I have experienced it in other culinary forms throughout my life. Beets just scream healthful goodness…you can’t help but feel healthier after eating one. If you are one of those individuals who can’t seem to get into beets, I can only say, “keep trying”. There are so many ways to enjoy this vegetable that there is bound to be a way to your heart somehow.

Beets hail from the same family as chard and spinach. The leaves are a tender green that cooks quickly and tastes a lot like chard. Young leaves are quite good raw, like in salads. It was surprising to me to discover that even the roots, including the deep red ones, are delicious raw in salads like coleslaw. Simply julienne or shred them and toss with your favorite dressing (but be careful, you’ll get a temporary stain on your cutting board). Beet roots are also great cooked and can be roasted, steamed, boiled, and even grilled (in a foil packet).

Beets are a nutritional powerhouse. Whatever you do, don’t toss those greens…they are the healthiest part of the plant and contain loads of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making them one of the most nutritious foods available. However, the roots are far from nutritional duds themselves, offering good sources of folic acid, potassium, fiber, and natural sugars in addition to tons of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Choose firm, unwrinkled or unblemished beet roots with crisp greens. Cut greens from roots and store each, unwashed, separately in plastic. When separated from the leaves, the roots can last a few weeks in the refrigerator. The leaves, unfortunately, get limp and lose nutrients quickly. Thus the leaves should be used within a few days. To increase the refrigerator life of the greens, try blanching them for a couple of minutes in boiling water, cooling them in an ice bath, and then draining well. Blanched greens will last an additional 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

Beets can be a few different colors, but are mostly red or golden varieties. The red beets “bleed” when raw or cooked and can stain some surfaces and temporarily discolor others, which is why you might want to consider wearing gloves and being careful when handling them. Golden beets are considered sweeter and milder in flavor than red beets, and won’t bleed or stain. They are a wonderful choice for raw preparations. For grated or julienned beets, it is especially helpful to use a food processor.

Cooking beet bulbs is incredibly easy. To roast, place well washed beet bulbs in a roasting pan with a little water and cover. Roast at 400 degrees for about one hour until beets are completely tender. Once cooked their peels slip off quite easily. Another way to roast beets is to peel and cut them, possibly mix with other root vegetables, and roast in a pan with olive oil and herbs (thyme or sage work great this way).

Beets can also be cooked by steaming, boiling, or grilling (cook in a foil packet for about 1 hour), These are all good cooking options for hot days when you don’t want to run the oven. Cooked beets are wonderful tossed with butter or olive oil and herbs and eaten as a side dish. They are also terrific in salads or pureed and made into soups.

Some natural accompaniments for beets include most nuts, sour cream or yogurt, mustard, tangy cheeses, citrus, fresh herbs (dill, tarragon, mint, parsely, basil), ginger, horseradish, cumin, and caraway.

Again, don’t forget those greens. Beet greens can be cooked and used in the same manner as spinach and chard. Sautéed beet greens are wonderful as a side dish or can be further used in other cooked preparations. Beet greens can also be blanched (see above). One of my favorite ways to use sautéed beet greens is in frittatas. See below for a beet green frittata recipe.


I like to make my frittatas lighter by using lots of egg white and reduced fat cheeses. If you prefer a richer option, use whole eggs and full fat ricotta.

Beet Green, Ricotta, and Parmesan Frittata            Serves 4


– 1 medium shallot, minced

– 1 teaspoon olive oil

– 1 bunch beet greens, chopped, about 2 cups, with water still clinging to leaves

– 6 large egg whites

– 4 large whole eggs

– 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

– 1/2 cup fat free ricotta

– 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

– 1/8 teaspoon salt

– Cracked black pepper, to taste


1. Place oven rack about 6″ from broiler. Preheat broiler.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk egg whites, whole eggs, Dijon mustard, ricotta, Parmesan, salt and pepper until well combined. Set aside.

3. In an oven-safe 8″ non-stick skillet (cast iron works great), heat olive oil on medium low heat until hot. Add shallot and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add beet greens and sauté, stirring occasionally, until greens are wilted and tender, about 2 minutes more.

4. Spread greens evenly around pan and add egg mixture to pan. Increase heat to medium. Cook, undisturbed, for 1-2 minutes or until egg starts setting around edges of pan. Using a spatula, push outer edges of egg mixture towards middle as you would an omelet, letting liquid pool around spatula and going around skillet as you go. Continue to scrap to middle for about 2 minutes total. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, undisturbed, until frittata has bubbles coming up and seems set except for top half, about 2-3 more minutes.

5. Place skillet under broiler for 2-3 minutes or until top is golden and set. Let frittata rest for 5 minutes before serving.


I like to call this Sunrise Soup because the vivid colors remind me of a beautiful sunrise. This is an easy but very impressive soup to serve to company.

Chilled Beet and Peach Soup         Serves  3-4


– 4-5 medium beets, roasted or boiled, skinned

– 2 large ripe peaches

– 2 large oranges, juiced (about 1/2 cup)

– 1 tablespoon honey

– 1 tablespoon tarragon or white wine vinegar

– 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon

– 1/4 cup water, or enough to thin soup


1. Using a small sharp knife, make an ‘x’ on the bottom of one peach just through skin. Place in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from water and using the ‘x’ as an aid, peel peach. Cut peach in half and remove pit. Reserve other peach for garnish.

2. Place beets, peach flesh from one peach, orange juice, vinegar, honey and tarragon in a blender and blend until smooth. Add water to thin to desired degree. Chill soup at least an hour. Dice reserved peach and use to garnish soup (peel as with first peach just prior to serving soup).


This dressing is adapted from the Mayo Clinic (, which provides education and recipes for health and disease prevention. The dressing is very low in fat and full of vitamin C. I love it with beets in salads, especially the one listed below.

Lighter Orange Basil Vinaigrette                    makes 1 cup


– 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

– 1 tablespoon cornstarch, scant

– 3 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar

– 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

– 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

– 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil


1. In a small saucepan, whisk orange juice and cornstarch until smooth. With heat on medium, bring mixture up to a boil stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute or until bubbles and foam have disappeared and mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and place in a jar or dressing container. Refrigerate until cold.

2. Mix vinegar, Dijon, basil and olive oil into cold orange juice mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill until ready to serve. You may need to add some water or more orange juice to reach desired consistency.


Beet, Goat Cheese, and Candied Walnut Salad         Serves 4


– 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

– 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

– 4 cups salad greens of choice

– 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

– 3-4 roasted beets, sliced

– 3 ounces goat cheese

– 1/2 cup lighter orange basil vinaigrette, or to taste


1. Preheat oven to 300. Line a baking sheet with foil. In a small bowl mix walnuts with maple syrup. Spread walnuts pieces evenly on baking sheet in single layer. Bake, stirring frequently, until toasted and dry, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

2. Place greens on large plate. Sprinkle with red onion slices, Top decoratively with beets, then goat cheese and walnuts. Just before serving, drizzle dressing over salad.


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