Perfect Beets For People Who Don’t Like Beets
I recently read this New York Times piece by Frank Bruni on learning to love foods we’ve previously disliked, and it struck a chord with me. I’ve always been an omnivore, with precious few foods in the “true dislike” category, but Bruni’s favorite once-hated-but-now-adored food is the same as mine—beets.
What is it about beets that brings out this strident aversion or devoted adoration? I don’t know. Everyone who tells me they don’t like beets says the same thing—they “taste like dirt.” I don’t get it. All I know is that I used to think they tasted weird and now I love them.
So do I love this recipe? Of course I do. I love it because it’s beets, and I love beets. But, I’ve also been able to use it to win over some of those “oh, I don’t like beets” folks, so I offer it up today as a gateway to beet appreciation. Granted, if you’re not a fan of the other ingredients, this concoction isn’t likely to sway you. But if the other ingredients sound delicious to you—and really, what’s not to like?—give it a try. This may be where you convert.
Ingredients for Balsamic Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Recipe
4 medium-sized beets (or equivalent)
4 medium-sized sweet onions (or equivalent)
1/2 c. pecans, chopped
2 oz. crumbled goat cheese
3 TBL olive oil, divided (plus more to taste, if desired)
1-3 TBL balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp thyme
Directions for Balsamic Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Recipe
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut the tops off the beets and scrub the outsides. (Here I’ll note that lots of people view throwing away beet greens as a sin. I’m a sinner; I just throw them in the compost. But you could certainly do something else with them.) I like to roast my beets in a foil packet; simply double up some tinfoil, place the clean beets atop it and bring the sides up to create a pouch, then pierce the beets a few times with a fork and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Then the pouch can be gathered up and twisted shut and placed on the center rack of your oven. For medium-sized beets, roasting should be complete in 45-60 minutes (check them at 45). You want a fork to easily penetrate to the center of the beet when they’re ready.
Once the beets are roasted, open the packet and allow them to cool until they can be safely handled. At this point the skins should slip off easily, and the beets can be chopped into whatever size pieces you like (I go for bite-sized half-moons, usually). This whole step can be done ahead of time, if you like, and the chopped beets stored in the fridge.
While the beets are roasting, put two tablespoons of olive oil into a large frying pan and place over medium-low heat. Chop your onions into strips (I usually cut each onion in half, then cut strips from there) and dump them all in the pan. The size and shape of the onion pieces doesn’t matter, but for even caramelization you want them to be more or less the same size, so pick a cut and stick with it. Add salt and pepper while the onions cook down. Successful caramelization is achieved low and slow; keep the heat low, stir every few minutes, and take your time. What seems like an enormous pile of onions at the outset should cook down to a small, sticky pile of gooey onion deliciousness.
In a small frying pan, toast your pecan pieces over medium heat until fragrant. You don’t need to add a thing, just heat them up, stirring or tossing regularly, until they smell good.
Time to assemble! Add the beets to the large frying pan containing the onions, and stir to incorporate and coat the beets with the oil in the pan. Add your thyme, taste to see if you need more salt/pepper, and add one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Depending on how much acid you like, you may wish to go up to as much as three tablespoons; I usually do about two to two-and-a-half. Taste it and see.
Turn off the heat under your pan and add the goat cheese. It will melt into everything else as you stir, and also turn a festive pink. This is fine. Lastly, top with the pecans and give it all one more stir before putting everything into a serving dish.
This dish hits every note I need in something yummy; the beets are savory and silky, the onions sweet and sticky, the goat cheese smooth, while the balsamic and the pecans give it all just the right amount of bite. It’s delicious warm, and nearly as good cold, too. Serve it as a perfect side dish—for whatever reason, I like it with pork loin, especially—or if you’re really feeling the beet love, I will often fix this and just have it as a salad meal over a bed of baby spinach. Depending on your level of beet devotion, you can feed 3-6 people with this recipe as written (but smaller or larger quantities are easy to do, too).
‘Fess up: Where do you stand on beets? Would you try this recipe even if you’re wary?