BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Eat to the Beet

Well into my second decade of veganism, it’s difficult to imagine anyone turning up their noses at beets, even though I was once firmly in that camp, too. Dark and earthy, they’re a polarizing specimen that still divides many otherwise harmonious dinner parties. Somehow the haters always take me by surprise, no matter how many times I see the look of disgust pass their eyes upon the vaguest mention of these humble root vegetables. Perhaps they’ve simply never had beets prepared with the love and care they need to shine; a bit of coaxing and a slow oven transforms the beet into a sublimely sweet, tender delicacy, no matter what other spices are invited to the party.

I will forever fight to win over those who haven’t been properly introduced to the kinder, gentler ways of the beet. Golden beets are the gateway to greater beet appreciation; milder yet somehow brighter than their blood-red brothers, they positively glow on the plate.

Naturally rich and full-bodied, it doesn’t take much to dress up a gold beet. Salty, cheesy tofu feta draws attention to the beets’ striking sweetness, which is further accentuated by a spritely twist of citrus. Something so simple couldn’t possibly be so good… And yet it surpasses all expectations, especially for someone expecting that same old taste of “dirt” they associate with those much maligned vegetables. No matter how seemingly indelible the stain on one’s memory may be, these beets will leave behind only contented smiles, and perhaps a healthy new craving.

Stuffed Golden Beets

8 Small or 4 Medium Gold Beets
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Tofu Feta, Crumbled, Plus More to Serve if Desired
1/2 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
1/2 Teaspoon Orange Zest

When selecting your beets, bear in mind that larger ones will be easier to work with, but they will take longer to cook. Smaller beets make for excellent appetizers while medium ones are ideal single-serving side dishes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lightly grease and set aside.

Remove the greens from the beets and reserve them for another recipe (like creamed greens or pesto.) Scrub them very thoroughly; the skins are thin enough that they’re entirely edible, but need a good cleaning first. Rub olive oil all over the outsides of the beets and sprinkle with salt before placing them on your prepared baking sheet, giving them plenty of space to breathe so that they cook more evenly. Cover with another sheet of foil to prevent them from browning too much.

Roast for 60 – 75 minutes, until fork-tender. Let stand until cool enough to handle, and then slice off the top 1/4 of each beet. Use a melon baller to hollow out the larger part, being careful to keep the outer walls intact. Save the innards for another recipe (try my Pistachio-Quinoa Pilaf!)

Crumble the tofu feta and toss it with the lemon and orange zest before stuffing it into the beets. Mound it up slightly, and replace the tops to mostly cover the filling. Return the beets to the oven for another 15 minutes or so, until lightly brown and warmed through. Crumble additional feta over the top if desired.

Makes 4 – 8 Servings

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Heart Beets

Unromantic and full of teenage angst, I’ve hated Valentine’s Day with a passion for the better part of my “adult” life. Back in middle school, while all the other kids were still crafting cute cards to share amongst friends, I went home and embroidered the words “Love Bites” in sparkly seed beads on a black t-shirt. Paired with inky-black dyed hair and baggy pants approximately eight sizes too large for my frame, it was the perfect ensemble that said Don’t even think about talking to me today. I was simply charming as a child.

Though still fairly bitter about the rampant commercialism inherent in most Valentine’s Day celebrations, forced sentimentalism, and being single in general, I’ve warmed considerably to the concept since then. Instead of writing it off as a couples-only event, it’s become more about appreciating the people I care about most in my life, be it my mom, my dad, my dog, or what have you. Sure, there’s a good bit of love shared everyday so a holiday needn’t be necessary, but isn’t it nice to have a legitimate excuse to spoil these wonderful people more than normal? That’s my new understanding of Valentine’s Day.

The perfect V-Day dinner isn’t full of supposed aphrodisiacs or drenched in fine wine; It’s all about the care that goes into preparation. Pierogi, a delight that rarely if ever graces our table, sounded like the ideal dish. More involved than your average weeknight meal, shaping each individual potato pillow must be created with great attention to detail. If that sort of dedication doesn’t say “I love you and I want to feed you very well tonight,” then I don’t know what does.

A casual affair through and through, it’s the gesture that speaks louder than words. You don’t need to make your pierogi shaped like fussy hearts (although you certainly could) because it says enough that you would make them from scratch. Better yet, these are no average pierogi…

Made to match the occasion, they’re stuffed with an alluring pink filling of red beets and mashed potato! That savory, earthy flavor paired with the lightly herbaceous wrapping is simply irresistible, especially when pan-fried and paired with a smidgen of vegan “sour cream” on the side. Of course, you could go the healthier route and boil them more like ravioli, but come on, live a little- Treat your loved ones to a truly special meal!

Blushing Beet Pierogi

Herbed Pierogi Dough:

2 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon Dried Parsley
1 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Dill Weed
1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
1 Teaspoon Salt
3/4 Cup Plain Greek-Style Vegan Yogurt or Vegan “Sour Cream”
1/4 Cup Water
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Beet and Potato Filling:

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Medium Red Onion, Diced
1/3 Cup Sauerkraut, Drained
1/2 Pound Peeled, Cooked and Cubed Yukon Gold Potatoes
1/2 Pound Peeled, Cooked and Finely Chopped Red Beets
1/4 Cup Plain Greek-Style Vegan Yogurt or Vegan “Sour Cream”
Salt and Pepper to Taste

To Cook (Optional):

3 – 4 Tablespoons Margarine or Coconut Oil

Prepare the dough by combining the flour, dried herbs, and salt in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer.  Separately, mix together the vegan yogurt, water, and oil before pouring these wet ingredients in as well.  Stir thoroughly until the mixture comes together into a cohesive dough, and then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead by hand for 5 – 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes so the gluten can relax, which will allow it to roll out more easily. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet, and add in the diced onion when hot.  Saute for 5 – 8 minutes on medium heat, until softened and beginning to brown around the edges.  Add the sauerkraut, and cook for just 1 or 2 more minutes.  Turn off the heat, and combine the contents of your skillet with the cooked potatoes, beets, and “yogurt” in a medium bowl. Mash together until creamy but still good and chunky, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before assembling your pierogi.

NOTE: You can prepare both components up to this point up to one day in advance. Just wrap the dough up tightly, stash the filling in an air-tight container, and store both in the fridge.

Roll out your dough as thinly as possible, pausing to allow it to rest if it continues to spring back and resist rolling thinner. Cut it out into equal circles with a 3-inch round cookie cutter. Re-roll scraps and repeat.

Place 1 – 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each circle, paint a dab of water around the edge, and seal into half-moon shapes. Crimp the outer edges with a fork to secure.

NOTE: You can again pause here and freeze the pierogi for up to a month. Just line them up on a baking sheet so that none are touching, and let them chill down in the freezer until solid. Transfer to a zip-lock bag or an air-tight container, label clearly, and fit them back into the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy. Don’t defrost; cook them as you normally would, but allow a few extra minutes.

To cook, slide them in a large pot of salted, simmering water for 5 – 9 minutes (up to 15 minutes if frozen), or until they float. Cook only 12 at a time so that you don’t crowd the pot. Remove gently with a slotted spoon. Serve, or for the more indulgent option, pan-fry them in the optional margarine or coconut oil until each side is golden brown; about 5 – 8 minutes. Enjoy with someone (or many someones) that you love!

Makes 30 – 40 Pierogi

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