Beets and basil salad

We’ve sung the praises of beets before. That’s partly because they tick all the healthy eating boxes: they’re high in anthocyanins, the same compounds that give maple leaves their red colour; they’re fibre-rich; and they’re a great source of folates, manganese, and other nutrients.

Plus, they’re incredibly easy to grow, even in Muskoka’s short growing season. If you’d like to add some beets to your garden next year, just let us know – there are some wonderful varieties available and we’re happy to add them to your annual beds, vegetable gardens, or even planters.

Beets have a very distinctive flavour, which can make for some wonderful food pairings if you get it right. A lot of people just toss their cooked beets with some butter, salt and pepper, or maybe a bit of vinegar or balsamic reduction. But there are also some wonderful herb additions that really add a new dimension to beets.

Tarragon is a traditional complement to beets. Dill and chives are another –blending the herbs into a dollop of plain yoghurt or sour cream is an eastern European tradition.

The combination of beets and basil is a new one to us, and it’s revelatory. Shredded fresh basil doesn’t just season beets, it works with the vegetable to create a new taste entirely.

This salad is really simple, and extremely tasty. (And if you don’t have fresh basil in your garden either, ask us to plant some of it, too – the leaves are at their peak when the beets are ready to pick.)

You can make this salad with a combination of beet varieties, for flavour and colour. If you’re using white or yellow beets as well as red ones, be aware that the red can stain the other colours, so you may want to cook them separately for maximum visual effect.

There are multiple variations on this salad. This version calls for the beets to be peeled and diced before steaming them for about five minutes.

You can also just toss whole, unpeeled beets into boiling water. Once they’re cooked, after about 25 minutes or so, plunge them in cold water and you can slip the skins off with your hands. Then slice or chop them.

However you cook them, let them cool to room temperature, then just toss these ingredients together:

1 ½ lbs beets, cooked, diced and cooled

2 cups shredded basil leaves

2 cloves of garlic

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

The salad can be served cold or at room temperature, and can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge.


Posted in Thoughts on Food.