Everything I’ve been cooking lately seems to be orange. Have you noticed? If you haven’t noticed, forget that I said anything at all. Orange food? What? I cook the rainbow!
If you have noticed, know that I thought I was going to be breaking out when I dreamed up this beet recipe. I envisioned deep claret purple. But then I rooted in my vegetable crisper drawer and was reminded that I had selected golden (read: orange) beets. Hmph. Well, we’re getting our vitamin A in these parts.
Whatever the color, these beet nubbins turned out to be a spectacular treat. Like candy.
I had heard there is a restaurant in New York called Dirt Candy. I love that name and the images it evokes (that would be bounteous bushels of vegetables, freshly turned up from the ground…and also that dessert that’s made with pudding, crushed oreos and gummy worms and is supposed to look like dirt – but I don’t think that’s what the restaurant is alluding to. I would totally order it if it were on the menu though. On principle.).
On the restaurant’s website, the owner says “What is dirt candy? Vegetables, of course. When you eat a vegetable you’re eating little more than dirt that’s been transformed by plenty of sunshine and rain into something that’s full of flavor: Dirt Candy.” I love that.
I’ve always found plants’ ability to transform sunlight and water into sugar quite miraculous. And so generous of them to concentrate it in their fruits and roots for us. (And given that we help them propagate from year to year, they may find the arrangement beneficial also.) Some of the vegetables are more forthcoming with their sweet natures than others, and I think the beet is among the most generous with its sugar.
More than any other vegetable, beets taste to me just like the concentration of sunlight and sugar in earth. All of those flavors are there. And while mellow, they are powerful. They can’t be camouflaged. Even pickled beets taste like beets, so you really have to embrace it.
I often contrast the beet’s sweetness with sharp cheeses, mildly bitter nuts, or acidic citrus. But, this time I decided to give myself to the sweetness and went for a glaze of apple cider, boiled until thick and spiked with some curry powder, to add a little heat and motion within all those earthy sweet flavors. Adding a little ginger in there wouldn’t be a half bad idea either.
You roast bite sized cubes of beets until almost tender, then toss in the glaze and continue to cook them until they are meltingly tender inside, and almost crisp on the outside and shellacked with the apple and spice flavors. Like candy. But even better, I think.
Apple Cider and Curry Glazed Beets (serves 4)
- 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. beets, scrubbed, any grungy parts removed, and cut into small cubes (about 1/2 inch)
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup unsweetened apple cider
- 1/2 Tbs. curry powder
- Preheat your oven to 425F. In a large baking pan, toss the beet cubes with a couple Tbs. olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and roast, stirring occasionally.
- While the beets are roasting, bring the apple cider to a boil in a saucepan. Cook, uncovered, until reduced to about 1/3 cup (around 15 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir in the curry powder (you could also add a bit of fresh or ground ginger in addition).
- When the beets are close to being fork tender, but are still a tiny bit crunchy in the middle, add the apple cider glaze to them, toss well and return to the oven. Continue to roast, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 more minutes, until the beets are quite tender and thickly coated by the glaze.
- Serve warm as a side dish. These would also be delicious tossed with some spiced quinoa and toasted nuts and a sprinkling of goat cheese. Or, you could allow them to cool and add them to a salad, or serve them with a dollop of Greek yogurt.