A couple of days ago, I talked about the beginning of wild salmon season, and today, I'm talking about the end of beet season. I think I've received the last beets I'll see from my CSA until fall, and I realize I do mention beets frequently here, but I really enjoy the flavor, the colors, and how nutritious they are. We're lucky to have a nice, long, growing season for beets since they only disappear during our extreme summer heat but grow well for the rest of the year. And, with locally grown beets, the green tops are always fresh and ready to be used along with the roots. When I saw this quinoa and beet dish on the NY Times site a couple of weeks ago, I knew it would be a great way to use my last spring beets. It was called a pilaf, but I served it more like a salad. Either way, it's very easy to prepare, and I added one little, extra step to gussy up the goat cheese. I rolled it in chopped pecans before slicing it into rounds and was happy to have the added flavor from the nuts. This was great served at room temperature as well as chilled from the refrigerator.
The beets were first roasted, and the roasting time depends on the size of the beets. Mine were kind of large, so after drizzling on olive oil and seasoning the cleaned beets with salt and pepper, I wrapped them in parchment and then foil and let them roast for about an hour and fifteen minutes at 400 degrees F. Once they're cool enough to handle, the skins slip off easily, and you can use a paper towel to remove them. Then, the beets are ready to be chopped, and they can be refrigerated until you're ready to complete the dish. The recipe suggested blanching the beet greens and draining them before sauteeing, but I skipped the blanching step. They cook quickly, so I just added them to the saute pan after garlic had been briefly cooked in olive oil. Crushed caraway seeds were supposed to have been added as well, but I skipped them. Meanwhile, white quinoa was cooked in a saucepan. Once the beet greens were wilted, the quinoa and chopped beets were added. I served the quinoa mixture with rounds of pecan-crusted goat cheese on top.
The white quinoa took on the pink color of the beets as they were stirred together in the saute pan, and the mild, nutty flavor went well with the earthy beets and greens. It was great to get to use both the tops and the roots of the beets in one dish. I'll be making this again as soon as our local beets reappear.