In Praise of Beets: The Ostracized White House Vegetable

Since we live to eat and we love nothing more than yummy, fresh, local produce, we're in heaven now that our nearby Farmer's Markets are selling their wares. So far this summer we've eaten our way through the arugula, lettuce, strawberry, rhubarb and asparagus crops. Next up -- fresh beets.

Nothing beats beets. We must admit we were bummed when Mrs. Obama nixed beets in the original White House garden because the Commander in Chief doesn't like them. Beets are naturally sweet, healthy and versatile. Great served hot or cold, they make delicious soups, side dishes, and salads. Think about it, what other vegetable gives you so much bang for your buck? Color: red and green. Texture: root'y and leafy. Value: nothing is thriftier than a two-for-one vegetable.

There are so many interesting beet varieties, we can never make up our mind which we like best, so we buy several bunches at a time. Striped, red, golden--whatever the farmer is selling. Look for bunches of small to medium sized beets with bright green leaves. Very similar to swiss chard in flavor, the tasty and nutritious beet green is often neglected.

The following recipe is simple and reveals the essence of the beet:

Sliced Beets Served on a Bed of Beet Greens

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and cut the beets leaving two inches of stem still attached. Place them in a baking dish sealed tightly with foil. Cook until tender --50-60 minutes. Let cool slightly, then slip off the outer skin and slice. (You can stop here and simply cut the beets into chunks, lightly salt, drizzle with a little walnut oil and serve.)
If the greens are tender they'll be a wonderful base for the salad. If not, steam the leaves until tender. Very lightly toss the greens with the tarragon vinaigrette. Arrange the sliced beets on top. Finish with a drizzle of the vinaigrette and more fresh herbs.

Tarragon Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves

Freshly ground salt and pepper

Mix together the oil, vinegar and mustard. Add in the tarragon. Salt and pepper to taste.

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