People often complain about beets, but I’ve come to see that it’s their combined earthiness and sweetness that makes them seem problematic. The trick is to always include a little acid with beets, whether they’re served as a cooked vegetable, or in a salad or soup. A bit of citrus or vinegar unifies those sweet and earthy flavors into an appealing whole.
How to choose beets:Beets are not only red, but also yellow-orange, candy-striped (Chioggia), and even white (albino). A mixture of colors can make a gorgeous dish. Just be sure to keep the red beets away from the rest until the end because they will stain the others. Whether large or little, beets taste about the same. Large ones just take longer to cook.
Using beet greens: If your beets arrive with fresh greens intact, you are in luck: You got two vegetables rather than one. Beet greens are delectable, especially those of the golden beets. They may look thick and leathery, but they cook to tenderness within minutes. Steam them and serve with the cooked beets, or chop and use them in a soup. They are interchangeable with chard, or may be combined with chard.
Preparing beets: The minute I get my beets, I go through the leaves, discarding the stems and any leaves that are yellowed or badly damaged. Once rinsed, beets can be cooked, or dried and stored. I steam the bulbs whole and then use them to make salads when I’m ready. Beets don’t require a lot of oil—they seem to shed it—and they work with many herbs, spices, and accompaniments, such as anise, dill, parsley, goat cheese, toasted pecans or walnuts, watercress, endive, arugula, citrus, avocados, vinegars of all kinds, capers, and so forth.