Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Falling in love with beets without turning red

Risotto, margaritas and more to make with the root veggie (just don't forget to wear gloves)

Addie Broyles
Beets come in many colors, but they can all be used interchangeably, as long as you know they'll turn whatever you're cooking the same color. [Contributed by]

What we love about beets is also what we don't love about beets.

The bright color that gives the root vegetable all those antioxidants is also what stains our hands and cutting boards when we cut it.

The soft, sweet texture can be too soft and sweet for some palates, but it's also what makes beets pair so well in salads or side dishes, where hearty grains or starchy vegetables need a little boost of flavor.

Good carbs, good fiber, paleo-friendly. Beets are rich in iron, potassium, copper, zinc, manganese and folic acid, so worth the effort. Just a little messy.

Beets are great ingredients to cook in a multicooker, such as an Instant Pot, especially when you don't want to turn on your oven or don't have one. Leave the beets whole and trim off the root. Place them on the wire rack with a cup of water and steam for 10 to 35 minutes, depending on the size. (On the website Amy & Jacky — — you can find a chart of beet cooking times based on circumference. A beet that's 2 inches in diameter would take about 25 minutes to soften.)

The temperature and duration for roasting the beets depends on their size. Whole beets will take 45 minutes to roast at 450 degrees, but sliced or cubed beets will cook in 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Quartered beets will take more time or a higher temperature. Be sure to rotate the beets if they are whole so they cook evenly.

Sometimes, beet peels will slide off if you cook them just right, but you don't have to peel them at all if you don't want to. The skin can be slightly bitter, so if you're going to puree them into a borscht, you probably should take it off.

Raw beet peels are perfect for adding color to brines and pickles or, if you're feeling inspired by Hoover Alexander's famous Beet-A-Rita, a bright pink margarita made with beet-infused tequila.

Grated beets add a pop of color to Irish chef Clodagh McKenna's cured salmon, but be extra careful when grating them, because the juice can go everywhere. This is when your food processor might come in handy. (I've read that beets can stain marble forever, so beware.)

At the grocery store, you'll find plenty of beet products to help you avoid some of this cooking and peeling. Among the options are refrigerated whole or diced cooked beets from British company Love Beets, as well as raw beet spirals from local produce company Cece's Veggie Co.

If you're buying whole beets from the produce section, they usually come with the greens still attached, which you can stir-fry or saute in a pan with some kind of fat (bacon, coconut oil) and an aromatic (garlic, onion).

With beets' popularity in high-end restaurants and as a health food, we'll likely see even more beet products beyond the beet juice, beet chips and even beet powders that are already available on the market, and I also think we'll see people cook with them more at home, especially as multicookers make them even faster to cook.

Just don't forget the gloves when you slice into one. 

Beet, Blood Orange and Gin-Cured Salmon

I developed this recipe for a theater supper that I was cooking at my friend Sally Greene’s house in London. The colors are simply dazzling on the plate, and this is a really fabulous first course for when you want to get a head start, as you have to prepare it a couple of days beforehand to allow it to cure. If you can’t find blood oranges, then just use regular oranges. If you want to slice it before your guests arrive, ensure you wrap it tight in plastic wrap so that it doesn’t dry out.

— Clodagh McKenna

For the salmon:

10 1/2 ounces salmon fillet

3/4 cup peeled raw beets, grated

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 tablespoon finely chopped dill

Grated zest and juice of 1 small blood orange

2 tablespoons gin

For the dill-pickled fennel:

1 fennel bulb

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon finely chopped dill

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup cider vinegar

1 blood orange, sliced, to decorate (optional)

Start by preparing the salmon, as you will need to let this cure for a couple of days. Place the salmon, skin side down, in a dish that’s deep enough for it to be submerged in the cure — I find a baking or pie dish is perfect. Add all the remaining ingredients for the salmon to a bowl and mix together well. Spoon over the salmon so that the salmon is submerged in the cure. Cover the dish loosely with two sheets of plastic wrap and sit a heavy weight on top — I use cans of tomatoes or similar canned items. Place in the fridge and leave for two days.

Next, make the fennel and dill pickle: Cut the fennel bulb in half down the center and thinly slice into semicircles. Add to a nonreactive bowl, sprinkle with the sugar, dill and salt, and pour the vinegar on top. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for about an hour. Give the pickle a good stir and then let stand for another hour. Then refrigerate in a sealed jar until ready to use.

Once the salmon has cured for two days, remove from the fridge, scrape off all the cure mixture, and pat the salmon dry with paper towels.

To serve, thinly slice the salmon away from the skin underneath and arrange on a serving plate with slices of blood orange, if you wish, and the fennel and dill pickle in a bowl alongside. Serves 4.

— From "Clodagh's Suppers: Suppers to Celebrate the Seasons" by Clodagh McKenna (Kyle Books, $24.99)

Roasted Carrots, Beets and Asparagus

Slow-roasted carrots are one of life’s most wonderful treats. In this vegetarian delight, the natural sweetness of the caramelized carrots pairs perfectly with beets and asparagus; the whole is wonderfully accentuated by the tart goat cheese. The added crunch of hazelnuts will make you want this side dish as a main course. You can leave some of the greens on the carrots, if desired.

— Michelle Rousseau and Suzanne Rousseau

6 to 8 medium-size heirloom carrots

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, divided

4 whole cloves garlic, peeled, plus 2 tablespoons chopped garlic

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, divided

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

6 red or yellow beets

1 pound asparagus stalks

Zest of 1 orange

1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

4 ounces soft goat cheese

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel the carrots. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon basil, 4 whole garlic cloves and 2 teaspoons thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and arrange on a baking sheet.

Peel and quarter the beets. Toss them with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon basil, 1 tablespoon chopped garlic and 2 teaspoons thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and arrange on a separate baking sheet. Roast the vegetables for about 45 minutes until carrots are caramelized and beets cooked through. Depending on the size and cut of your vegetables, the cooking time may vary, so test with a knife to be sure they’re done.

While the root vegetables cook, wash the asparagus, and trim off the tough ends. After the carrots and beets have roasted about 40 minutes, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, the asparagus and the orange zest. Season with salt and pepper and toss, cooking quickly for about 2 minutes or until the asparagus stalks are bright green but still crispy. Remove from heat.

Combine carrots, beets and asparagus on a platter. Top with the remaining basil and the hazelnuts, and dot with the goat cheese. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and serve. Serves 4.

— From "Provisions: The Roots of Caribbean Cooking — 150 Vegetarian Recipes" by Michelle Rousseau and Suzanne Rousseau (Da Capo Lifelong Books, $30)

Chicken, Halloumi and Beet Salad

Honey mustard dressings brings together this chicken, halloumi and beet salad that is served on a bed of spinach. To make the salad vegan, you could replace the chicken and halloumi with avocado and walnuts and the honey with maple syrup. This method calls for cooking the beets and chicken at the same time in the oven, but if you're using leftover chicken, you could roast the beets on their own or use a multicooker to steam them.

— Addie Broyles

2 small beets, peeled and cut into quarters

1 small chicken breast, sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 slices halloumi cheese (about 2 ounces)

1 teaspoon whole grain mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon water

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 cup spinach

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a tray with parchment paper. In a bowl, toss together the beets, chicken and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken and the beet mixture on the baking tray and bake for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the beets are tender. While the chicken is cooking, place a frying pan over medium heat and cook the halloumi for two minutes on each side, or until golden.

To make the dressing, combine the mustard, honey, water and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk well. Once cooked, toss the chicken, beets, halloumi, spinach and dressing together. Serve immediately. Serves 1.

— From "Totally Buf: Your 6-week Guide to Becoming Beautiful, Unstoppable and Fearless" by Libby Babet (Hachette, $19.99)

Beet Risotto

Risotto is just one of those dishes that seems so fancy and complicated but is actually beyond easy to make. It’s just Arborio rice — which naturally gets creamy when cooked — plus stock, butter, cheese and a little love and attention with a spoon. That’s it! But what I especially like about risotto is that it’s the perfect canvas for adding in just about any vegetable — roasted squash, sauteed wild mushrooms, sweet corn. For this version, I went with roasted beets, which gives the risotto a gorgeous, gem-toned color.

— Tiffani Thiessen

1 1/2 pounds red beets, washed and dried

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 cups chicken broth

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 medium fennel bulb, cored and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Set the beets on a large sheet of foil set on top of a baking sheet. Toss the beets with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Wrap the foil around the beets to form a pouch and transfer the baking sheet to the oven. Roast for 40 to 55 minutes, depending on the size of the beets, until they are tender when pierced with a paring knife. Set aside to cool.

In a small saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer. (You’re just keeping the broth warm while you prepare the risotto.)

In a large high-sided skillet or saucepot, melt the butter in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, another 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook until it is lightly toasted and starts to turn opaque, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook until it’s almost completely evaporated, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add a ladleful of the warm stock and stir continuously until the stock has been almost completely absorbed. Repeat this step until the rice is al dente — tender but still firm to the bite — and creamy, about 40 minutes. You may not use all the stock. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the Parmesan. 

When the roasted beets are cool enough to handle, peel and chop them into 1/4-inch pieces. (You might want to wear plastic gloves while you do this if using red beets to avoid staining your hands.) Reserving 1/2 cup for garnish, stir the cubed beets into the risotto. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with the reserved beets. Serve immediately. Serves 2 to 3.

— From "Pull Up a Chair: Recipes From My Family to Yours" by Tiffani Thiessen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)

Golden Beet Lemonade

Beets, innately sweet in nature, lend themselves well to juicing and, here, to lemonade. The earthiness of the beet poses as a natural companion for the acidic tang of lemon. Add the honey as you see fit. You may come to find you do not need it at all. 

— Danielle Majeika

1/2 pound golden beets, peeled and quartered

2 medium lemons, piths removed and roughly chopped

2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

4 cups chilled filtered water

Honey, to sweeten, to taste

Ice, for serving

Lemon peel, for garnish

Combine the beets, lemons, ginger and water in a blender, and blend on high for 1 minute, or until the mixture is smooth. Run the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing against the pulp with a spatula to extract as much liquid as possible.

Transfer to a pitcher to serve, adding honey for additional sweetness to taste. Serve over ice and garnished with a lemon peel. Makes 4 cups.

— From "The Vegetable Gardener's Cookbook: 75 Vegetarian Recipes That Will Help You Make the Most Out of Every Season's Harvest" by Danielle Majeika (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)

Beet Peel Margarita

Hoover's Cooking in East Austin sells its famous "Beet-A-Rita," but if you want to try making your own beet margarita at home, check out this recipe with beet peel–infused tequila, which imparts an earthy beet flavor to the drink without watering it down. Simple syrup is nothing more than sugar and water. Combine equal measures of water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool before using. Transfer any extra to a glass jar or similar container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

— Addie Broyles

For the beet tequila:

Peels from 3-4 beets

4 ounces tequila

For the cocktail:

Kosher salt

1 ounce Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur

2 limes, halved and juiced (don’t discard the spent limes)

3 ounces Beet Peel Tequila

4 teaspoons simple syrup

Additional lime slices, for garnish (optional)

Place the beet peels in a jar with the tequila. Store in a dark place for 10 days. Strain beets and pour the tequila back in the jar or in a bottle.

To make the cocktail, pour some kosher salt into a small, shallow dish.

Add the Cointreau, lime juice, tequila and simple syrup to a shaker filled with ice. Run the spent lime halves around the rims of two glasses (or one, no judgment), dip the rims of the glasses in the salt and then fill the glasses with ice.

Shake the cocktail until chilled and then strain into the glasses. Garnish with a slice of lime, if desired. Makes 2 cocktails.

— From "Cooking With Scraps: Turn Your Peels, Cores, Rinds, and Stems Into Delicious Meals" by Lindsay-Jean Hard (Workman Publishing, $19.95)