The Mixing Bowl: Music with a perfect beet

Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

Like when musical notes come together to create a melody that most people agree is beautiful, I feel the ingredients in this recipe possess a similar harmony. Even though it is a simple vegetable dish, it gives homage to the synchronicity of each of its individual parts combined.

I prefer the darkest and most purple beets, just because the color is so distinct. There are other colors including a white variety that was eaten by the ancient Greeks. The plant is native to the Mediterranean and Western Europe. The round ones we eat now were developed in the 16th century according to Harold McGee in his tome, “On Food and Cooking.” They also possess a natural sweetness that later was cultivated by scientists into the sugar beet, a major source of granulated sugar, although sugar cane production is six times greater than for sugar beets.

Roasting really brings out the flavor and keeps the color saturated. The added yogurt makes a nice pink color and the green flesh of the toasted pistachios add contrast. 

The recipe was presented by Aaron Hutcherson in the March 13, 2019 New York Times.

Greek yogurt is usually firm like sour cream. You can use any plain, whole milk yogurt, but you need to drain it first to use in this recipe. See directions below:

Roasted beets with yogurt, pistachios and coriander

3 small beets (about 2 pounds total)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Kosher salt and black pepper

2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds

2/3cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt, drained

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup roughly chopped toasted pistachios

The yogurt needs to be thick and creamy like sour cream. If it isn’t, put cheese cloth in a sieve over a bowl. Add about one cup of yogurt to the cheese cloth and let sit and drain for about an hour or more until it holds its shape.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the beets with a vegetable peeler if you want. Larger beets need to be peeled. Cut them in half, then cut each half into four wedges. In a bowl, toss the beets with two tablespoons olive oil and the ground coriander. Season generously with salt and pepper and spread out in an even layer on a rimmed baking pan. Roast, tossing once halfway through, until almost fully tender, about 25 minutes. Cut the beets into bite sized pieces and put them back in the bowl.

Meanwhile, toast the coriander seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking the skillet, until seeds are golden and fragrant, one to two minutes. Set aside.

Season the yogurt with salt and pepper and spread it on a platter. Add the remaining olive oil and the balsamic to the roasted bite-sized beets and toss to coat; season to taste with salt and peppers. Arrange the beets and their juices over the yogurt. Sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and toasted coriander seeds. Serve warm or at room temperature.

•••

Sarah Ringler is a retired schoolteacher. She worked as a cook for eight years before being a teacher, and also taught a cooking class at Pajaro Middle School for several years. She comes from a long line of serious cooks and passed the tradition on to her children, grandchildren, students and hopefully her readers.