Sweet on beets

Vegetable provides color, flavor and nutrition

click to enlarge Sweet on beets
Photo by Ashley Meyer.
Pickled beet deviled eggs.

Show yourself some love this Valentine's Day with beets. These deeply pigmented vegetables are a glorious addition to winter menus, providing visual pop, sweet earthy flavor and loads of nutrition. Rich in iron, manganese, potassium, vitamins and B6, beets also are a source of plant-based nitrates, which research has suggested can increase blood flow and improve cardiorespiratory efficiency.

Beets can keep exceptionally well in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Remove the tops and wrap in a paper towel then place in a perforated zip-top vegetable bag. Stored this way, beets will keep for several weeks and can be enjoyed shredded raw in salads, pickled, roasted, steamed or grilled. Boil a diced beet along with potatoes and mash with milk and butter for magenta-hued "Red Flannel Hash" or prep cubes of roasted beets to brighten up weekday lunches.

Pickled beet deviled eggs

12 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
1 cup pickled beet juice
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2-4 tablespoons mustard, to taste
1 teaspoon each lemon juice and cider vinegar
Salt, black pepper and cayenne to taste
Finely diced beets and fresh dill, to garnish

Place the eggs in a plastic zip-top bag and pour in the pickled beet juice. Refrigerate for 4-12 hours (any longer will make the eggs tough). Drain the eggs and transfer to paper towels to dry slightly.

Halve the eggs lengthwise and remove the yolks. Combine the yolks, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar and seasonings in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until smooth. Adjust for seasoning as needed. Then use two spoons to fill the egg white halves with about a tablespoon of the yolk mixture. Garnish with pickled beet cubes and fresh dill.

Roasted beet salad with wheat berries, feta and dill

4-5 medium beets, roasted, peeled and diced
2 cups cooked wheat berries, cooled
½ cup crumbled feta
4 ounces baby arugula or spinach
2 tablespoons minced dill or mint
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon each lemon juice and Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the beets, wheat berries, feta and greens in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the vinaigrette with the salad and serve.

Heart-shaped beet ravioli

For the pasta:
1 medium beet
2 cups all-purpose or 00 flour
2 whole eggs plus one egg yolk
1 tablespoon olive oil
A generous pinch of salt

For the filling:
8 ounces whole milk ricotta or cottage cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 clove minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest

To serve:
½ cup cold butter, cut into tablespoons
cup grated Parmesan
Minced parsley and freshly ground pepper

First, make the pasta dough. Peel the beet and cut into ½-inch cubes. Place in a microwave safe bowl along with a tablespoon of water and microwave on high for about 3 minutes until the beets are tender. Set aside to cool. Place the cooled beets and their cooking liquid in the bowl of a food processor along with the eggs, yolk and salt and purée until smooth. Add the flour and pulse until combined. With the motor running add the oil in a thin stream, then pulse until the mixture becomes crumbly and moist to the touch. If the mixture seems dry add a teaspoon of water at a time, pulsing to incorporate.

Transfer the dough to a clean floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes to form a smooth ball, then wrap with plastic and set aside to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

While the dough rests, make the filling. Combine the cheeses, egg, parsley and garlic to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine, then set aside.

Unwrap the dough when it has completed its rest and divide it into quarters. Set one quarter of the dough onto a floured surface and rewrap the remaining pieces so they don't dry out. Flatten the piece of dough into an oval shape then run it through a pasta roller on the widest setting. Fold the dough in half lengthwise to create a long narrow rectangle and run it though the machine again on the widest setting. Reduce the width on the roller by one setting, then run the dough through the roller twice before again narrowing the width of the roller, repeating until you have reached the narrowest setting. If the sheet of dough becomes too long to handle, cut it in half and finish rolling the pieces separately (Cover the other sheet with a towel to keep from drying out.) Repeat with the remaining three pieces of dough, keeping them covered with a towel once they're rolled out.

Once all the dough is rolled out, lay out half the sheets on a floured surface. Spoon a tablespoon of filling into the center of the pasta sheets leaving about two inches in between each mound. Brush the edges lightly with a pastry brush dipped in water. Top with the remaining pasta sheets and press around the mounds to dispel any air pockets and firmly seal the sheets together. Cut out the ravioli with a heart-shaped cookie cutter or a sharp knife. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook, up to 12 hours, or freeze.

To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli in batches and cook until al dente, about four minutes (The ravioli will float to the top when done.) While the pasta cooks, make the sauce. Place a sauté pan over medium heat, add ¼ cup pasta water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the butter one piece at a time, whisking gently until the sauce thickens. Take off the heat and add the cheese and pepper. Season to taste with salt, then add the cooked ravioli and toss to coat with the sauce.

Ashley Meyer

Ashley Meyer has been cooking as long as she has been walking. The daughter of beloved former Illinois Times food columnist, Julianne Glatz, Ashley offers a fresh, inspired take on her mother’s culinary legacy. Ashley studied winemaking at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand and recently achieved the...

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