Some things in life are better in theory than in reality. Street fairs, for instance. And exercising. And beets. I buy beets because they’re shapely, and silky. They look like runway models, with those flouncy greens perched atop long, sleek stalks. And that lurid pink is impressive, lurking beneath such unassuming skin. They’re probably even good for you, right? So what’s not to like?
Well, it’s just the taste. They’re borderline cloying. Thick, dark, and purple-tasting. Please don’t dispute me on this, dear beet-boosters. I never said my “better-in-theory” list would match yours. Besides, I’m removing beets from the list as of today.
I finally found a recipe that won me over to the taste of beets. No longer must I endure beets because they lured me into buying them under false pretenses. This salad has me sincerely gobbling them up and coming back for seconds. Seconds! Of beets! Imagine if you actually liked beets to begin with.
These beets can add some dazzle to any plate. But it”s the taste, not the color, that brings them into better-than-theory territory. Vinegar and shallots rein in the sweetness, while bright bolts of orange lighten the mood. It”s made to order for a potluck. How many side dishes travel well and are best eaten at room temperature? I’m not saying you’ll win as much love as the guy who brings brownies to the potluck. We’re not talking miracles here. But sometimes you’re ASKED to bring a side dish, right? So, go ahead, impress your friends. See if you can convert some beet-bashers. I’m here to tell you it’s possible.
There were garden-variety pinkish-purple beets in the faultless cookbook photo that inspired this recipe. They contrasted festively with the orange slices. But I had to go and buy varietal beets. I was seduced by those hues. They were obligingly stunning when I cut them up. Even the scraps had something to say.
But when they were cooked, and cut, and tossed with orange slices, they looked, unfortunately, a lot like the orange slices. What should’ve been a dashing feast of color ended up looking like a mysterious orange stew. But don’t let that dissuade you. Make this recipe. Just stick with magenta beets if you want splashy contrast.
This recipe was adapted from Ina Garten’s Beets with Orange Vinaigrette. If you believe Ina (and I do…I always do), it tastes even better the second day, after marinating overnight in the dressing. Ours didn’t last long enough to test that theory.
BEETS WITH ORANGE VINAIGRETTE
2 pounds of beets, trimmed
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup small-diced shallots
2 seedless oranges
Place the beets in a large pot with water deep enough to cover them. Bring water to a boil and simmer beets uncovered for about 50 minutes, until they are tender enough to stick a fork into. Drain.
When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins. They’ll slide right off in your hands. No tools necessary.
Slice beets about 1/3 inch thick, then cut across the slices to make ½ inch-wide slabs.
Put the sliced beets into a large bowl.
Zest the oranges. Then cut the ends and pith off the now-zested oranges, and separate the segments.
Add orange segments, zest, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and shallots to the beets. Toss gently.
Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.