Beets have a sweet, earthy flavour and are high in nutrients. The new local beet crops have now arrived in markets in mid-summer to stay available throughout the winter. Beets retain their flavour when baked in the oven rather than in boiling water. Beets bleed their red juices easily so it’s best to peel them in the sink and slice them on a plate to avoid staining the chopping board. My favourite method is to bake lightly oiled beets is in a covered casserole.
1½ pound (750 g) fresh local beets, washed
1 tablespoon (15 mL) vegetable oil
*Zest from 2 oranges plus 1/3 cup (75 mL) juice
3 tablespoon (45 mL) balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon (25 mL) olive or walnut oil
1 teaspoon (5 mL) maple syrup
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon (2 mL) salt or more to taste
¼ teaspoon (1 mL) black pepper
1 cup (250 mL) feta cheese, cut into ½-inch (2 cm) cubes
1/3 cup (75 mL) shelled walnuts, *toasted
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Place the beets in a casserole and toss with the oil. Cover with lid or foil. Bake 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on the size of the beets. To test if beets are cooked, hold hot beet in a towel and gently rub the skin. If it comes off easily, the beets are cooked. Cool the beets then peel by rubbing off the skins; trim the ends.
2. Cut beets in half and cut each half into bite-size wedges and place them in a salad bowl and toss with the orange zest. To make vinaigrette, combine orange juice, vinegar, syrup, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss beets with vinaigrette; cover and marinate beets in refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving.
3. To serve, gently toss cheese cubes through the beets. Garnish with the walnuts.
*Zest is the thin coloured rind of citrus fruit removed with a zester or fine grater without touching the paler inner layer.
*To toast walnuts, place them in frying pan over medium high heat, shaking pan often until walnuts give off an aroma.
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