For the longest time, I couldn’t stand beets. Now, I wasn’t doing them any favors by derisively, skeptically throwing them into the oven and hoping something magical would happen in there. But with a little effort, even a former beet-hater like me can reap the rewards of the pleasant texture, irresistible sweetness and “earthy” flavor I once panned so vociferously to anyone who would listen.
It helps to start with local, farm-fresh beets, which I picked up by the bushel from Cure Organic Farm in Boulder. Early in their harvesting season, the beets come in a variety of sizes, but they’re jam-packed with flavor and all those good nutrients that make eating beets worth the effort.
The key, for me at least, is pairing beets with fat — a dollop of goat cheese on a roasted beet has become a pretty common preparation for a reason. But you can get serious fat into the beet during the cooking, too. After a few attempts at roasting beets in basically a pouch of olive oil and butter, I moved the operation to the stove top, took away the butter and added herbs and garlic for a beet that even the most beet-phobic could love.
Place the fat-poached beet atop Cure’s punchy, spicy salad mix and drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice and/or a dash of balsamic vinegar — the acid amplifies the beets’ candy sweetness. And don’t forget about the beet greens that come attached to Cure’s fresh-plucked crop. Cut and blanch for two minutes in boiling water, then sauté with bacon, garlic and olive oil. Finish with a drizzle of vinegar to bring it all to life.
Poach, don’t roast, your beets
Throw beets in the oven for an hour or two, depending on the size, and you’ll get the job done. However, if you don’t want to heat up the house, try a stovetop beet preparation: Not only will it keep the house cool, but it also yields tastier results.
You can poach beets in a variety of liquids — wine or water with vinegar will produce a slightly tangy, tender beet. But poaching in fat yields buttery, rich beets that you can throw onto a salad, slide into a sandwich or eat without accompaniment.
Like roasting, poaching will tenderize the skin for easy removal, but peeling beforehand allows more flavor to concentrate into the beet — although I only have anecdotal evidence to prove that. Peel beets and slice into thick portions, place them in a pot and barely cover with olive oil. Throw in a few smashed garlic cloves and fronds of rosemary or whatever herbs you have on hand. Simmer at a very light bubble until the beets are tender, about an hour. Bonus: grill or saute the beets for two minutes per side to caramelize.
Boulder County Farmers Market expands offerings
Though open-air markets and farm stands have an edge over cloistered, covered grocery stores during the pandemic, the Boulder County Farmers Markets (BCFM) has not been immune to COVID-19’s impacts.
After a delayed start to the season, BCFM began to offer reserved slots so folks can peruse some of its markets, in addition to a new model of online ordering and curbside pickup of goods from local farmers, ranchers and food makers.
As the growing season moves into a period of abundance, BCFM is pivoting again to offer more ways to engage with local food.
First, the Boulder Wednesday market is back — it kicked off on July 15, and will continue through Oct. 7, 4-8 p.m. Reservations can be made to access the market, though they’re not required. And while there won’t be a beer garden this year, limited seating in the open-air food court has been approved.
For Longmont and Lafayette market-goers, BCFM is currently operating curbside pickup. In Longmont, folks can order food online beginning Tuesdays at 8 a.m. through Thursdays at noon, with pickup between 9 a.m and 2 p.m. on Sundays. In Lafayette, you can sign up for a pre-selected box of goods from up to eight local farms — order from Sunday to Tuesday with pickup on Thursdays.
If you access the Union Station market in Denver, you can sign up for a “chef box” — hand-selected produce accompanied by a virtual chef demo. July’s box courtesy Matt Vawter of Mercantile Dining & Provision; August’s from Jen Janinski of Crafted Concepts and September’s from Sheila Lucero of Jax Fish House.
Last, celebrate Colorado Proud Month and National Farmers Market Week (Aug. 2-8) by supporting the slate of unique offerings from local food businesses. BCFM is highlighting local businesses like Oliko Ginger Beer, Green Belly Foods and Spark + Honey by creating boxes that contain up to 10 local packaged foods based around a theme (such as a Celebration of Latin Community and Flavors, Hearty Colorado Breakfast and Ultimate Colorado Snack Box).
To access or learn more about any of these offerings, visit bcfm.org.