Week of August 25, 2008
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Beets and Citrus, a Beautiful Combo
By Dana Jacobi
for the American Institute for Cancer Research
Although I was always a fan of the humble beet, I could understand others’ tepid responses to the root vegetable. That is, until I attended a beet tasting in Napa, California, and truly fell in love.
The tasting (similar to a cheese or chocolate tasting) included beets of every color – red, yellow, orange, pink and even candy-striped Chioggia beets, named after the region in Italy where they originated. We sampled varieties as small as a marble and ate slices from a softball-sized beet that were remarkably tender.
The differences in flavor were striking and proved that there’s a variety for every taste preference. If the earthiness of beets bothers you, try golden or orange beets, which are a bit sweeter and milder tasting.
From a nutritional standpoint, beets are also a winner. They are rich in folate and potassium and are a good source of fiber. Plus the pigments that give beets their vivid colors are potent antioxidants.
Beets are related to chard and their leaves are nutrient-rich. I recommend steaming and coarsely chopping beet greens, then drizzled them with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice and serving them lukewarm.
The taste and texture of the commercially jarred pickled beets that most people are familiar with are quite different from home-cooked fresh beets. When cooked from scratch they are creamy and tender and have a somewhat meaty texture. Eating them at room temperature emphasizes their sweet side.
I particularly enjoy red or yellow beets (or a combination of the two) paired with oranges, as they are in this salad. The acidity of the citrus adds appealing contrast. The recipe explains how to cook and peel beets without staining your hands or work surface – helpful tips if this dish succeeds in making you a fellow beet-lover.
Beet And Orange Salad With Citrus Vinaigrette
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium beets, stems trimmed to 1 inch
1 large navel orange
8 large Boston lettuce leaves
1-2 Tbsp. diced red onion
1/4 cup orange juice
Set a steamer insert into large, deep saucepan. Pour in cold water to a depth of 2 inches, making sure it does not touch bottom of steamer. Arrange beets in one layer in steamer. Cover tightly and set pot over high heat. When water boils, reduce heat and simmer beets 45 minutes, or until thin knife meets slight resistance when inserted into center at the widest point. Transfer beets to plate and let cool just enough to handle.
To avoid staining your work surface, lay a sheet of plastic wrap over it. Slip your hands into plastic sandwich bags. Cut tops and root tip off beets. With your fingers, pull and slide off beet skin. Cut each beet crosswise into 6 slices.
Grate 2 teaspoons zest from orange and set aside. Cut off top and bottom of orange. Setting orange on one of its cut sides on your work surface, slice off peel in strips, letting knife follow the curve of the fruit. Cut orange crosswise into 8 slices.
To assemble, line 4 salad plates with lettuce. On each plate, arrange 6 beet slices and 2 orange slices on top of lettuce. Sprinkle each with one-fourth of onions. If serving family style, line a serving platter with lettuce, top with all beets and orange slices, and add all onion.
For dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together orange and lemon juices, vinegar, salt and pepper until salt dissolves. Whisk in oil and add zest. Spoon dressing over the salad. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 90 calories, 4 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 14 g carbohydrate,
2 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 360 mg sodium.
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