Used to be, I couldn’t figure out what people tasted in beets that was supposed to be so great. During the first year after we first joined our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) co-op, I lamented at the frequency and quantity of the beets we would get in our delivery. I experimented with all kinds of recipes which clearly had the goal of masking the distinctively earthy taste of these messy, unattractive roots. Often the experimentation involved butter, yogurt, cream, and sometimes handfuls of dried herbs or odd combinations of incompatible spices. I knew I was getting closer with roasting and tangy dressings, but still those beets seemed a chore to consume.
Until we stayed at the unforgettable Dawn Ranch Lodge in Guerneville, located on the Russian River. The restaurant has an outdoor patio overlooking the surrounding woodsy landscape that includes the oldest Dawn Redwoods known to exist in California. The menu highlights locally grown organic fare and the beet salad on arugula absolutely called out to me. I know, right?
It was delicious. I couldn’t get enough, even as I munched on blue cheese battered onion rings and washed it down with an amazing herbal mojito, it was actually those silky sweet beets that made the biggest impression. Our waiter was very knowledgeable, and was kind enough to describe the preparation and the marinade. Quite simply, the less you do the better it tastes, which really is the best rule for fresh food after all. Now when we get beets in our delivery they rarely make it to exist another day, and I have even added the citrus to bring out the beautiful, candy-like goodness of these vegetable treats.
2 lbs. very young beets
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Good splash of balsamic vinegar
Roast the beets whole in olive oil until just tender. Peel and slice thin or cut into eighths, whichever your preference. In a large bowl, combine the lemon and orange juices, sugar and salt, and balsamic vinegar. Beat the mixture lightly with a whisk. Add the beets and serve cold over arugula.