Baked beets with herbs and butter

These delicious, flavorful, light beets work great as a side dish. Serve them with cucumber yogurt sauce, grilled lamb sausage, and couscous for an easy and delicious dinner idea.

Garden of Eating
Baking beets, rather than roasting them, is a faster process. After about 30-45 minutes in the oven, slip the skins off and slice them to a smaller size.

We got the most lovely bunch of purple beets at our last CSA pick up. I used a few by grating them raw into salads (yum!), then proceeded to ignore them in order to focus on some of the more time-sensitive veggies that needed to be dealt with quickly. Luckily, beets keep for quite a while in the fridge if you remove the greens and this batch seemed perfectly content to cool their heels in the crisper for nearly two weeks while I dealt with more pressing culinary concerns.

I typically roast beets – they're delicious that way -– but I was not feeling excited about waiting quite that long for them to cook so I decided to try baking them, instead – something I'd never tried before. With baked beets, the cooking time is sped up by putting a small amount of water in the bottom of the baking dish to steam the beets while they cook. Then you slip the skins off just as you would with roasted or boiled beets. It's a bloody-looking business but it washes right off.

I was also attracted to the simple idea of tossing the warm beets with butter, herbs, salt, pepper, and a little lemon juice. So I ran out to our little container garden and gathered up oregano, thyme, and basil and chopped them up.

The results were both quicker and less messy than roasting and deliciously flavorful and light. The baked beets are a little bit softer than roasted and the fresh herbs complement their natural sweetness while the butter makes it feel just a wee bit decadent and the salt, pepper, and lemon juice add a little brightness and jazz.

I served them with a thick cucumber yogurt sauce spiked with fresh mint (have I mentioned how much I love whole milk Greek yogurt for this purpose?), grilled lamb sausages from our favorite butcher shop, and my own interpretation of one of those Near East boxed couscous mixes. I use this very tasty, fine whole wheat French couscous that we get in bulk at our local health food store, some sautéed red onion, a lot of chopped fresh herbs, olive oil, salt, and pepper -- it's much better than the box.

The beets were at least as tasty the next day as leftovers, too. I will definitely be making these again.

Baked beets with herbs & butter
Serves 4-6

1 large bunch of beets (any kind), washed with tops and tails removed

 2 tablespoons butter (you could substitute olive or walnut oil if you do not eat dairy)

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Big handful of fresh herbs (thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, etc.,), washed, dried and chopped

1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or mild vinegar like champagne or white balsamic

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the beets in a shallow baking dish and add half a cup of water to the bottom. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven.

2. Bake for 30-45 minutes (cooking time will depend on the size of the beets you're using), until beets are soft when poked with a fork. Remove from the oven and let sit, uncovered until cool enough to handle. Slip the skins off and remove any roots or tough pieces left over from the tops with a knife, then slice to whatever thickness and shape you desire.

3. Toss with the herbs, butter, salt, and pepper then sprinkle a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or vinegar of your choice. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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