I remember a time when beets were scary. They were vac-packed and soggy in the produce section of the grocery store, or sliced up in a can, which rarely equals delicious. Despite their endearing colour (purple, you guys!), they fell flat and tasted like dirt.
Luckily, sooo much has changed. It is now much easier to get beets that recently grew in the ground, often with their greens still intact, meaning their dirt-living life wasn’t too long ago. It’s natural that their earthy flavour still lingers, but that natural sweetness that comes from a freshly dug-up beet is undeniable, and their texture, both when raw or cooked, is something to celebrate too. Oh yeah, and they’re good for you.
They are full of phytonutrients that vary based on the colour of your beets, so by eating a variety of colours (just like all foods) you will get a broader range. They also boast anti-inflammatory super powers, are full of anti-oxidants and aid in detoxification.
Buying beets with their greens intact is usually the freshest option. The leafy beet greens and stems deserve a blog post all to themselves, so I’m not going to get too into it here, but keep them and juice them or sauté them with some garlic. They are packed with anti-cancer and they taste good too. For this recipe, for me, it was a little bit too beet on beet to use them as well as the roots, but this way you get two meals out of one veg. Bonus.
I roast the beets whole, because I feel it preserves their flavour and colour best. For this reason, it is a good idea to find beets that are close to the same size so that they cook at approximately the same rate. If it is 1000 degrees in your house, and the thought of turning the oven on makes you want to jump into your neighbour’s kiddie pool, quarter them, or cut them into even smaller wedges before roasting, to shorten their cooking time. Adding water to the roasting pan, and covering the pan up, allows the beets to steam, which speeds things up too, and prevents browning, something we try to avoid. Foil makes an ok lid, just try not to have it pressing down on the beets, the less aluminum in our food, the better.
This ricotta is awesome. There was a time when macadamia nuts were considered dangerous, heart-clogging little baddies. All of that unnecessary guilt! We now know that macadamia nuts are full of fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats (monounsaturated fatty acids) and are therefore superstars of cardiovascular and overall health. They also taste, rich, sweet and buttery, so they make a natural faux-dairy base.
Brazil nuts are thrown into the mix for their selenium, an important mineral in fighting cancer. They are one of the best food sources of selenium, which is becoming increasingly scarce in our diets due to mineral loss in the soil used to grow our food. They do however, have a more distinct taste, which I think is quite nice, but it isn’t a bland, sweet, dairy-resembling taste. A mix of the two nuts, plus the addition of the herbs gives us the necessary balance/flavour-masking that we are looking for.
(Raw beet slices topped with mac ricotta.)
Despite the unorthodox, dairy-free cheese approach, this is actually quite a classic salad. The fresh lemon in the ricotta and the bitter dandelion greens offset the sweet earthiness in the beets. The fats from the nuts help the nutrients in the veggies absorb into your system, and they hold enough fat that I don’t find it needs any olive oil, just a squeeze of lemon juice over the whole salad. It can be enjoyed slightly warm or room temp, or right from the fridge the next day.
I hesitate to leave it on this note but I do think it’s worth a friendly reminder in this particular circumstance: to avoid alarming bathroom moments, don’t forget that you ate beets purple beets the day before (we’ve all done it). From a Nutritionist perspective, their colour that just won’t quit can be a useful way of tracking your digestion rate. Silver lining?
- 3 bunches of Beets (10-14, mixed colours if possible -golden, candy striped etc)
- 8-10 Garlic cloves
- 6 Thyme sprigs
- ½ bunch of Dandelion Greens
- 4 Green Onions, sliced
- ¼ c Chervil, picked off the stems
- ¼ c Tarragon, picked off the stems
- ¼ c Chives, sliced
- 1 Lemon, juice and zest
- ½ c Macadamia Nuts, soaked overnight and rinsed
- ¼ c Brazil Nuts, soaked overnight and rinsed
- 2 tsp Nutritional Yeast
- ¼ c Chervil, chopped
- 2 Tbsp Tarragon, chopped
- ¼ c Chives, sliced
- 2 Green Onions, sliced
- 2 Garlic Cloves, roasted (from beets)
- ½ Lemon, juice and zest
- ¼ c + Water (more if needed)
- ½ tsp Turmeric (optional, but recommended for its anti-inflammatory powers - WITH black pepper for better absorption)
- 1 tsp Dulse (optional but recommended for extra minerals)
- Sea (weed) salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 340*F (less heat is better but it can take foreeeeeever to cook them)
- Trim the tops off of the beets (reserve for juicing, sautee-ing, or to cut into other salad greens. I find its a little too much beet flavour if they all land in this salad).
- Wash the beets and lay out into a casserole dish that is big enough to give them a little space to roll. Add 2 cm (1/2inch-ish) of water, the garlic cloves and thyme. Cover with a fitted lid (or foil).
- Roast beets for 45-75 minutes, (depending on their size) until you can easily stab them with a knife. (They won't get as soft as potatoes).
- Allow to cool.
- Lay the dandelion greens down on a platter.
- Quarter the beets (unpeeled) and scatter them around on top of the dandelion greens.
- Scatter around the whole roast garlic cloves, unpeeled (reserving two for the ricotta recipe)
- Dollop the ricotta around abstractly, don't over think it.
- Scatter the herbs and green onions around on top, liberally.
- Pour the lemon juice and zest evenly over the top.
- Dump the soaked and rinsed nuts into the blender with the roast garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice (turmeric, dulse), a pinch of sea salt and water.
- Blend until smooth (a high power blender is your friend in this recipe).
- Add a little more water if it isn't blending properly.
- Pour into a bowl and stir in the rest of the ingredients (herbs, lemon zest).
- Adjust seasoning.
- This tastes great as a dip, added as a layer to (vegan) lasagne, or smeared onto a salad plate before plating lemon-dressed delicate greens. Off of a spoon is, as always, a wonderful option too.