As a child, there were very few vegetables that I really liked at all. In fact, the list was dismally short, and included just peas and beets….it’s a miracle I lived past the age of ten on such a “vegetables prohibited” diet. What do these two lovelies have in common you might ask? Certainly not their size or color, nor their botanical specifics, the green pea being technically a seed, the beet a root vegetable. What they do have in common is their relatively high concentration of natural sugars that make them among the sweetest “vegetables” around, and a certain hit with almost all kids. Nature’s candy, I like to call them.
This dish is layered with great flavors, none of which are so strong to offend the average kidlet, and yet are sophisticated enough to appeal to the stuffiest gourmand. The whole shebang can quite easily be prepared by most kids all by themselves. Roasting the beets does take a bit of time, so plan accordingly, but the balance of the dish can be prepped in just a few minutes.
If needed, the dish can easily be presented in stages. For the least adventurous in your crowd, perhaps a few slices of roasted beet with a little butter and salt. For those willing to stretch a bit, toss the beets in the cumin dressing before serving, and for the full fledged foodies among you, chuck all the beautiful mint, pistachios, chevre and lemon zest at them and watch them quiver with delight.
Have a camera ready for this quivering thing, as they’ll never believe it if you don’t capture the moment.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, pan toasted and lightly crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 medium or 2 large beets (1 1/2 pounds), cleaned and trimmed, leaving 1 inch of stems attached
- 1/3 cup fresh mint, cut into chiffonade
- 1/2 cup raw pistachios, pan toasted and roughly chopped
- Micro-planed zest of 1 lemon
- 1 ounce goat cheese, crumbled
- Zest the lemon and reserve the zest for service. Stir together lemon juice, cumin seeds, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk in oil and let stand while roasting beets.
- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.
- Tightly wrap beets in a double layer of foil and roast on a baking sheet until tender, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. If using 2 large beets, cut them in half, and place them cut side up in the foil wrap. Let the beets cool enough to be able to handle in the foil package, about 15 minutes.
- When beets are cool enough to handle, peel them, discarding stems and root ends, then cut into 1/2-inch-wide wedges, or dice them, as you prefer.
- Toss warm beets with dressing. Stir in mint and pistachios just before serving. When plating, top with lemon zest and crumbled goat cheese.