purple CSA

Last night, I had dinner with my friend Jacqui, someone I first met through an editorial internship three years ago, but later came to know through our food blogs (started on the exact same day last August, would you believe it?) and who inspires me, with simple-enough-for-me-to-try fried green tomatoes and stories about her family that give me chills right in the middle of my day and, lately, stories about beets, the purple root vegetable I have never, ever before tried or bought or held, even, but found a bunch of in my Saturday CSA box.

And while Jacqui regularly amazes me with phrases like, But I don’t have a baking sheet, or We don’t keep sugar in the apartment, or Could I bake that in a casserole dish instead?, she also possesses an attitude toward vegetables—and all food, really—that is as open-minded and I-will-try-that-too as I could ever hope to be, without making me feel silly for ordering something called a chicken puff at the Thai restaurant she took me to, after I asked her things like, What is Pad Thai? and How do you make fried rice?

So anyway, when I saw her recipe for beets Sunday, luring me with likenings of beets to jewels or lipstick kisses, I felt less terrified of the purple beasts inside my box, more empowered. I knew what I would do.

beets

And after scrubbing, trimming and placing the beets in my Lucy Le Creuset with a little water at the bottom, I stuck the whole thing in the oven for about 45 minutes, later pulling them out, draining, cooling and then wiping away their skin with my plastic-gloved fingers. Everything she said was right, from the way the gnarly exterior gives way to something shiny and glistening to the way they taste, eaten just plain, like the earth they came from.

Seeing as this was the first time I had ever had a beet, I tried very hard to discern their flavor or texture: like you’d expect of a vegetable, hearty, smooth, slightly sweet, almost like a cooked carrot. While I wouldn’t say it was love at first bite, I do think we’re on to something, beets and me, and we’ll have a lifetime to get the kinks worked out.

bright beets

Plus, and I hate to be all nutritionist on you, but have you seen all the health benefits of beets? They’re said to be preventative forces for heart disease, colon cancer, stomach cancer, inflammation—I mean, hello, right? Doesn’t that just make you want to want beets? And I think that’s half the battle. (Side note: I never thought I could see myself becoming one of those parents who tried to talk her kids into eating their vegetables, but I see that as a genuine danger now, increasingly so with every article I read. Those poor future children.)

beets on blue plate

After I ate an entire half a beet, all by itself, I Tweeted something that yielded me yet another discovery: beets can be a secret weapon in a moist chocolate cake! (Thank you, Kendra, who, by the way, teaches cooking classes in North Carolina, which I very much wish I could attend, and one of which features the chocolate beet cake, perfectly dubbed Schrute Cake, hence the title of this post, fellow Office fans.)

kendra's schrute cake

The next day, when I’d Tweeted about the cakes, Jacqui said, Of course I would make a cake with beets. And she’s right: I am comfortable with baking; she’s comfortable with cooking; but with the real, honest connections we’ve made through blogging, we are both learning a little more about each.

I guess, to offer the flip side of my last post, in which I said how much I hated pretense, I should also say I love authenticity. I love it with people I’ve known all my life; I love it with people I’ve just met; I love it with those of you who read and blog and comment. Through blogging, I’ve found it with Jacqui and with you. I’ve found it with wonderfully written blog posts out there like this and this and this.

And if the great value of pretense is that it highlights the beauty of the genuine, then for that, I am grateful.



Roasted Beets
Adapted from Happy Jack Eats

Jacqui says to save the greens (which I did, and then promptly gave to someone) because they can be treated like kale or spinach, which intrigues me, so I will have to try sauteeing them on the stove sometime soon.

Ingredients:
6 small beets, scrubbed and trimmed (or 3-4 large or medium)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the beets in a baking dish with about half an inch of water, and cover it tightly (I used a lid; Jacqui used aluminum foil). Roast for 40 to 50 minutes (smaller beets: less time; larger beets: more time). You’ll know they’re done when you can easily stick a fork in them.

Drain the dish and allow the beets to cool. When cool enough to handle, use plastic gloves or paper towels to peel/wipe away the skin. It will rub right off, falling into your hands like you’re wiping smudges away—truly amazing. You can eat them plain; coated with olive oil, honey and balsamic; or, heck, pureed and added to your favorite chocolate cake. The possibilities are endless.

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 44 Comments

  1. Emily

    Agreed about the *inspired* title. Also, this almost makes me curious to try beets again, though I haven’t had great success with them before. Not even the cute little golden ones. I think I got it in my head ages ago that they were gross. My Grandma, about whom we have talked before, used to make these ENORMOUS jars of pickled beets and hard boiled eggs. While I LOVED the color the beets and the brine turned the eggs (like Easter eggs!), the taste made me gag every time. That kind of revulsion is hard to shake. Well done, you, though, for trying them out!

  2. Jennifer

    I love beets. I love chocolate. I had no idea they’d partner up for the sake of chocolate cake. It’s for wonderful discoveries like this one that I look forward to each of your posts. Cheers!

  3. kendall

    I have never liked beets and aside from the Bugs Bunny cartoon with the machine that takes the burps out of beets… I have avoided them like plague. BUUUT, in Chocolate cake, now that, is either crazy talk or just excellent. I might have to try this. After I find that burp-removing machine from Looney Tunes

  4. Donna

    Great post!! I love beets, prepared any way..and am the only one in my family that does!!! Looking forward to trying them like this and to sending this post on to my non-beet eating family members!!! Thanks, Shanna…love your blog and checking out the other blogs that you suggest!
    By the way..did you see “Julie & Julia”? I loved the part about getting Julia’s cookbook published because I already knew all about that from “The Tenth Muse” and when she started talking about Judith Jones..I elbowed my friend and said “I know her!!!” (well..kinda..) Thanks for the heads up on the book..I sent it to Kelley to read and know she will love it. She was going to see “Julie & Julia” last night.

  5. Jacqui

    oh shanna. this is the sweetest thing ever! thank you for your kind words, and your inspiration, and for your touching posts, and for your can-do, will-try, anything-is-possible spirit in everything you say and write and do. i love that you tried beets, and i love even more that you baked them into a cake, because it just goes to show how you not only are unafraid to try new things (small steps are good!), but that you go above and beyond to make them your own. and while you might be inspired that i could just eat these veggies plain, straight off the roasting pan, i am ten times more inspired that you would make them into a dessert! veggies! in a dessert! who knew!

    and since i’ve reconnected with you through our blogs, i’ve bought sugar, baking powder, and even baked something. can you believe it? yes, small steps for me, too, but we’re getting there. pretty soon, we’ll take over the world. it’s inevitable.

    thank you for this. can’t wait to meet up again. next time, you pick the place. :)

  6. Kim

    I am so glad you have brought beets into your life (and I too love the title). Commenter Laura is right – goat cheese all the way! Beet and goat cheese salad is one of my favorite things ever (basically, make a salad and add beets and goat cheese. Yep, it’s totally a recipe. Sure it is. Mhmmm).

    I hardly ever (read: I’ve done it twice in my life) buy raw beets, because the time and mess involved in heating and cleaning them before you can actually use them is annoying to me. BUT OH JOY OF JOYS, Trader Joe’s sells pre-cooked and cleaned beets. You can eat them hot or cold, and I believe it is less than $4 for about 5-6 (small) beets. I usually cut them up and add them (cold) to salads, but you could easily use them in recipes, or slice them thin and heat them up or something. They are awesome. Even if they only come in red, and not in the glorious golden/orange colors that some beets come in when you buy them raw. Golden beets = beautiful.

    Three cheers for beets!

  7. Stephanie

    To all of you beet lovers out there… I discovered that wrapping the washed, unpeeled and trimmed beets in aluminum foil and setting them in a baking pan lets them bake/steam perfectly and makes clean up a snap. I haven’t found adding water to be necessary since the beets stay very moist in their miniature foil ovens. Kim is right, the precooked from Trader’s are very convenient, but that earthy flavor is so much better when they are freshly prepared!
    Shanna, I love your writing and receive so much joy from your recipes and your insights. Thank you for sharing yourself with all of us lucky enough to have found this blog…

  8. Shannalee

    MyFirstKitchen, Thank you again, Kendra, for shooting me the recipe and being so all-around inspiring.

    Emily, I’ll be honest: the very sound of pickled beets is making me want to gag right here. On the other hand, I have never tried them, and I want to want to. It’s like I was telling Jacqui yesterday, A lot of the things that I normally wouldn’t eat are way easier to try when I’m the one preparing them, watching them transform, seeing what makes them, you know? So I try to keep an open mind, try stuff and tell myself it’s fine if I still gag a little. I am all about the small steps.

    Jennifer, Thank you! And I’m just as surprised. Love new food discoveries!

    Kendall, Well, now I want to see the Bugs Bunny machine you’ve referenced. That, and have another slice of chocolate cake because, honestly, beets or no beets, I always want another slice.

    Donna, You are always and ever sweet. Thank you! I’m still pretty sure I didn’t tell you about Tenth Muse, but I’m glad you liked it so much! Oh, and I did see Julie & Julia, and I am as in love with Julia Child as ever.

    Whitney, Woah – love!? You and Jacqui both amaze me, and I am getting there. Beets and I are at sort-of-like right now, moving slowly.

    Laura, Ah, so now I need to try goat cheese. My palate is ever expanding.

    Oh, Jacqui. There is no question one of the best bits of blogging has been reconnecting with you. Thank YOU for your kind words, and encouragement, and support, and listening ear. I may have gotten goosebumps when I read about your buying baking powder and sugar, and I still smile when I think of your “I have news” at the table yesterday, followed by “I baked something.” So glad to know you. Really.

    Kim! Now, hang on just a minute. I will give TJ’s credit for a lot of things, and bless them for making beets more attainable for the masses, but roasting beets is SO EASY, I have to say. I did not get a bit of purple on my hands (gloves, friend! gloves!) and the mess was literally as simple as cleaning my Le Creuset and the strainer afterwards. That’s it. As for the goat cheese – I am gritting my teeth and thinking I will try it soon, feeling a little nervous with all these new things in my eating, loving it and you for helping.

    Stephanie, Interesting tip about the aluminum foil! I should definitely try that – do the beet juices still drip through and into the pan, though? If so, I’d guess it’s just as messy? If not, amazing! And thank you for your sweet comments, you dear girl. I feel my cheeks flushing, and you are very kind.

  9. Stephanie

    I leave a little room for the steaming to occur. I set the beets on a largish sheet of foil then bring up the sides. You can either gather up the foil into sort of a top knot, or very neatly roll the gathered seam down towards the beets (almost like making something en papillote). Just make sure you have a pretty good seal. Nary a pan to wash!!

  10. Kim

    (cowering in shame) Ok Shannabanana, I am feeling the embarrassment of my full beet-making-laziness rearing its ugly head. Can I blame my lack of counter space? No? Ok, maybe I’m just lame and I need to try this again. Properly this time.

    Gooooat cheese. Love it. Live it. Have I mentioned that I usually have about 8 kinds of cheese in my fridge? Yeah, I love cheese. But goat cheese. Mm. On its own, in salads, paired with a nice fig jam and eaten with crackers…can’t go wrong! There is a goat cheese with honey (chevre with honey, I believe it’s called) that is just pure bliss when spread on a toasty baguette or a loaf of homemade honey whole wheat bread. I don’t remember the brand name, but sometimes TJ’s has it…

  11. Shannalee

    Stephanie, That sounds so simple! I wonder how many other vegetables that would work with…

    Kim, LOL, no cowering necessary, although this may be a good time to point out that my weird name rhymes with Donna or Dontchawanna instead of hannah or banana like it looks like it should. I blame my well-meaning parents. As for the goat cheese, the kind with honey actually sounds delicious, and ok, you’ve talked me into it. I will try it! Thank you!

  12. Kim

    Now Miss Shannalee, you don’t know that I wasn’t pronouncing “banana” with an English accent! :-) Ok, maybe I wasn’t. Now I know! Shanna-dontchawanna…kind of sounds like the name of a sleepaway camp from the 70’s or something. Camp Shannadontchawanna. Wow. I am full of silliness today, as I have literally been watching the clock counting down to my after-work cupcake tonight. One of those days!

  13. Joanna

    I laughed out loud when I saw your title. I love the office. And I want to say that pickled beets and hardboiled eggs are awesome. My grandmother made them every fourth of july my entire life. I probably would never make them myself, but they bring back so many good memories.

  14. Emily

    Glad you enjoyed the beets and liked my suggestions via flickr :) I have to say that I am most inspired by your reference to a beet cake! That sounds so good. Especially if it holds in the moisture like a chocolate zucchini one. Yum. Yum. Yum.
    I also bake my beets a la Stephanie above – anything for an easy clean up and the longer you leave them in their little package, the more sweet they become. Happy experimenting!

  15. jessiev

    i LOVE beets. always have. put a little butter on them – oh so very yummy. now here’s the deal with the greens – you can sautee them with a little onion and garlic, and then mix it with feta inside some phyllo, or on top of a pizza – they are WONDERFUL!

    i am so glad you’ve discovered them! and our 7yo ASKS for beets. yep. isn’t it great?

  16. Sprouted Kitchen

    i roast mine in foil too (per above comment)! If it’s one less pan to clean, I’m all for it :) Also makes sense for me, as I only have a toaster oven, so I can bundled them up in a foil puch and roast away. I wish we lived closer so we could go on a blog friend date! If you ever find yourself in Southern California, or me in Chicago, we will meet!

  17. Jennifer

    Sounds delicious. I want to go roast beets now! I always put a few beets from the salad bar on my salad and like them well enough. I’d love to play with the vegetable itself. Like you, I like to be the one doing it and seeing what goes into the process.

    Have you ever done anything with parsnips? I had the most wonderful parsnip soup/stew in Ireland and would love to get into parsnips. If you or anyone has any parsnip suggestions, I would love to hear them.

  18. Shannalee

    Joanna, Glad to entertain and I love it, too. So pickled beets, huh? I should really try them? I like that you have a memory with your grandma and them, and it helps soften the idea for me.

    Emily, Another vote for the foil tents! OK, I’m sold. And PS – for anyone else interested in trying the pureed beets in a chocolate cake: I used one-and-a-half smallish beets pureed, so around a cup, give or take. I probably should have said that!

    JessieV, On top of a pizza!? Now that is something I should try. Generally speaking, I can like anything when it’s on top of a pizza. PS – What is your secret for getting your seven-year-old to like beets!? DO tell!

    Sprouted Kitchen, It is a date, Sara! Anytime you’re in Chicago or next time I’m in Cali, we will have so much fun. Thanks for your vote on the way to prepare beets and OH MY WORD you only have a toaster oven!? And you’re still able to make so many things! Inspiring.

    Jennifer, I don’t think I even know what a parsnip looks like, which should come as no surprise to anyone reading. Anyone else want to help her (and me) out, please feel free!

  19. Sprouted Kitchen

    don’t be impressed too quickly, we typically do posts in my parents or grandmas house for use of a full kitchen. There just isn’t enough light nor appliances in my mini studio. The vagabond blog home is fine for now, ha!

  20. Natanya

    Parsnips look like a cream-colored carrot. I’ve come to enjoy parsnips a couple of different ways:

    1. Roast them like you would carrots or any other root vegetable. They are particularly yummy tossed with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and rosemary before roasting.

    2. Create ribbons using a vegetable peeler, boil them for a couple of minutes until tender in some salted water, and then toss them with your favorite cooked pasta and sauce. This is a trick I use to sneak more veggies into my family’s diet :-)

  21. Shannalee

    Sprouted Kitchen, AHA! That makes more sense! I am still impressed though, but then I was the first time I clicked on your blog.

    Natanya, Yes! Exactly what I wanted! Thank you and I will have to try these ideas!

  22. Kristen

    Sooooo, where’s the recipe for beets in Chocolate cake? NOT a beet lover by any stretch of the imagination (although I’ve probably only ever had them pickled on salad bars) but I would definitely try them in a chocolate cake!!

  23. Lan

    i tried beets for the first time last night. i wanted to hold off of commenting until i had at least tried it before saying one way or the other.

    i liked it. alot. not like how i knew right off the bat that rhubarb and fennel are awesome but still, it was enjoyable enough that the next grocery shopping adventure i’ll be grabbing some more. i roasted it with onions, served over lettuce, drizzled with simple vinegar/olive oil dressing and topped with some crumbled goat cheese. it was lovely.

    for now i will stick to the roasting. something about just popping it in the oven for an hour, rubbing the skin off and then chopping it up is so appealing.

  24. Angela@spinachtiger.com

    I’m doing a purple food series because of all those health benefits you mentioned from the flavoids. I know it starts to sound “yawn” boring talking health, but I love health from food and not drugs. Beets also has tryptophan, and once I started falling asleep in a restaurant after eating them and couldn’t figure out why. Good to eat if you need a nap. If you’re like I used to be, you threw the beet greens away, but next time you will be delighted to eat them with some olive oil, salt and pepper. You must cook them though.
    You can find them snuck in on the bottom of this post. http://tinyurl.com/nzs3u7

    I also put beets in a strawberry cake recently, but I sure would love the recipe for the chocolate cake.

  25. Shannalee

    Jessica, I miss him, too. Wait, did I say him? I mean it. I mean it.

    Lan, I am so proud! I agree on roasting – it’s a great way to bring out the natural flavor of so many things. PS, here in Maine, I’ve seen beets on almost every menu, made in all kinds of ways that have inspired me.

    Angela, Fantastic! You are so right about enjoying health benefits from food rather than drugs. I feel the same way. As far as the chocolate cake, I linked to a recipe in the comments here, or you can Google it for some options. I can’t believe you used it in a strawberry cake!?

    Alicia, I thought of you when I found that part out. We’ll have to talk about it soon!

  26. Stephanie

    Shanna, you’re in Maine? Please have a lobster roll and report back. It is one of the most simple yet divine dishes ever invented. Oh, and Indian Pudding and blueberry pie are pretty good too. I love Maine…

  27. Shannalee

    Stephanie – I just got back this afternoon, but, believe me, I had blueberry pie (blueberry crumb pie, in fact, as well as blueberries on my salad, in pancakes, in muffins and probably other things I don’t remember) – apparently Maine makes 99% of the nation’s blueberries? Crazy! I also had lobster, although no lobster roll (!) and it wasn’t bad, but I think I still prefer crab cakes. Is that crazy, too? Maybe.

  28. ragamuffin

    Nice to meet you, Shannalee. It is fantastic that even with Crohn’s you’re able to continually enjoy the best of food. As soon as this bout of mine is over, I will be making that Schrute Cake. I love beets – eat them like apples. Here’s hoping you have a long and pleasant relationship ahead!

  29. Shannalee

    Ragamuffin, I was so glad to find your blog, which was really very encouraging in an empathetic kind of way. There’s so much I don’t know about Crohn’s Disease, and I feel like I’m finally opening my eyes. Glad you can still enjoy beets sometimes—they’re supposedly good for inflammation, did you know that already?—and glad you stopped by to comment here!

  30. Pingback: Happy Jack Eats: Tomato, plain and tall |

  31. Denise @ Creative Kitchen

    LOVE the title of this post!!! I am a new follower of the office and have now see all 5 seasons via Netflix streaming instant play. It is such a good show!

    Beets…..been wanting to try them for a while…even before learning of Dwight’s beet farm…;) this post and the comments have given me a lot of great ideas.

    So much inspiration from the food bloggers….and so little time esp with a one of my 3 girls a busy toddler! You’ve hooked me and I’m subscribing now. Thanks for the smile today!

  32. Shannalee

    Denise, You are definitely among friends here as an Office fan, and as a food blogger. The blogging community is my favorite part about writing here – so many inspiring and kind people. Thanks so much for your comment!

  33. saer

    hahahahahah this title will forever be brilliant..so bizarre, i first learned of chocolate beet cakes a few weeks ago when on holiday…i’m going to take a crack at it in a couple of weeks when i have some willing victims err volunteers to tr it.

  34. Pingback: Beet and Lettuce Salad with Green Onion Vinaigrette | Food Loves Writing

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