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Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012 10:21 am

Basic instructions for cooking beets

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Rather than boiling beets, most cooks prefer baking them: it’s easier, there’s less mess and they retain more flavor and nutrition.

Preheat the oven to 375.

If the beets have stems and leaves, cut them off leaving about two inches of stems attached. Scrub well. Wrap in a foil packet in one layer, sealing the foil tightly. If the beets are in several sizes, make individual packets, or group them by size. If the beets are different colors and include red beets, wrap the colors separately so the red beets won’t stain the others. Alternatively, the beets can be placed on a rimmed baking sheet or a baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer (separated, if necessary, as above). Cover the baking sheet or dish tightly with foil.

Bake until the beets can be pierced easily with a knife. Baking time will depend on their size(s); small beets can take as little as 30 minutes, larger beets take 40-60 minutes or more.

When the beets are completely tender, open the foil and let them stand until they’ve cooled enough to handle, then rub the skins off; they will slip off easily, as will the top stem area. Use plastic gloves to avoid staining your hands.

Variation: Add a teaspoon or so of whole spices to the foil packets for scented beets. Possibilities include fennel seeds, star anise (4 pods), a cinnamon stick, anise seeds, dill seeds and coriander seeds.
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