Beets are not a vegetable I’ve prepared often, probably because my first introduction to them as a cooked vegetable — plain and cooked too soft — was anything but inspiring. I’ve always liked them pickled, but I’ve come to love them roasted or simply cooked and brightened in a tangy marinade.
While we were away, I picked up a small bunch and prepared them simply to have as a side dish with lentil cakes and a green salad. They added so much zing to the meal, in terms of both colour and flavour.
This is an easy make-ahead dish. Top 3 beets, leaving about an inch and a half of the stem on, wash them well, place in a sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer until the beets are fork tender. Depending on the size of your beets, this may take from 30 to 45 minutes or so. Drain, and let cool. Once the beets are cool to the touch, remove the rest of the stems and the root ends and slip off the peels with a knife. (Mess alert! — If you have any concerns about your fingers being dyed a glorious shade of crimson, wear gloves.) Slice and dice the beets, then dress with about 1 tbsp olive oil and 1-1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, and add the leaves of a few sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped. Stir together well, cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. If they’re going to sit for a few hours, take them out of the fridge early, give them a good stir and let them come to room temperature.
The dressing enhances the rich flavour of the beets, adding a mild tanginess without the puckery zing of pickling, and enhancing the other food on the plate. Enjoy!