Thursday, November 8, 2012

Polish Style Beets

Plate of Red and Rose White Beets
Simple, Colorful, and Healthful

Recipe from Live Earth Farm

I know that I just advised you in my last post of November recipes to forego the beets and other root veggies until winter, when locavores will be eating plenty of them. But this strategy doesn’t always work if you belong to a CSA and get a box of produce every week that’s chosen by the farm. True that beets will keep for several weeks in the fridge. Also true that they can be large, take up a lot of refrigerator real estate, and resist being compressed into smaller spaces. After a couple of weeks' worth of both red and rose-white beets, my resistance to cooking them wore thin. 

Basket of Red and Rose Beets
Rose White Beet in Center Weighs 1 Lb.!
Plus I’ve wanted to try this simple recipe from Live Earth Farm (our CSA) for a long time. CSA member Linda Caplinger sent LEF her family recipe, which didn’t specify quantities. I’ve quantified the ingredients, but as Linda says, “there are no fixed amounts,” so feel free to adjust the simple recipe elements to your taste and to the number of beets that you have on hand.

From what I can gather on the internet, this recipe is true to Polish culture because in Poland oregano is paired with beets and vinegar. The recipe differs from the more traditional and much stronger Polish pickled beets, in which white vinegar is boiled with sugar, salt, and sometimes horseradish and poured over beets and onions. The balsamic is lighter and sweeter, and the olive oil makes this dish more like a salad than a pickle. It’s mellow and sweet flavor compliments stronger savory main dishes like Rosemary Chicken with Fennel.

Rose White Beets Sprinkled with Oregano
Marinate Separately or All will Turn Red
Remember that if you combine red beets with any other color and a dressing you’ll end up with all red beets. I separated the reds from the rose-whites to test the taste of the dressing on each color individually. Although the reds have a coarser texture and stronger flavor than the rose-whites, the dressing works equally well with both. I wouldn’t hesitate to combine both colors next time. The oregano taste seemed to mellow out within 24 hours, so leftovers seem milder and can be used in salads with other ingredients including dressings.

Two kinds of Cooked Beets Half-Peeled
Cooked Beets Peel Easily with Fingers
If you have some fresh oregano, you can substitute that for dried, provided that you increase the amount x3, to approximately ½ - ¾ teaspoon. Or experiment with another herb, like thyme or rosemary (I would reduce the quantity on either, since both are stronger than oregano). Linda, whose family elders created this recipe, sometimes uses blackberry or raspberry vinegar in place of the balsamic. Wine vinegar pairs well with beets and would be a slightly edgier and less sweet substitution. Take note of the time that the beets need to marinate, about 30 minutes, particularly if you use dried herbs.

Polish-style Beets
serves 6 - 8

2 ½ lbs. beets
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 ½  tbsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1/8 – ¼ tsp. dried oregano

Scrub beets with vegetable brush. Put into a pot and just cover with water. Bring to boil. Turn down heat and simmer until fork can be fairly easily inserted. If beets vary significantly in size or are different types, you might need to remove smaller, yellow, or rose-white beets from the pot before larger and/or red beets are done. Place cooked beets in a pan of cold water and allow to cool just enough to handle.

Slip the skins off the cooked beets. Slice into rounds (or half- or quarter-rounds for larger beets). The original recipe calls for ¼ inch slices, but I made mine larger, from 3/8 inch approaching ½ inch.

While beets are still warm, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano. Immediately pour over beets. Gently toss the beets to coat with dressing.

Allow to marinate 20- 30 minutes, stirring up dressing from bottom of bowl occasionally. Serve at room temperature or chilled. My husband also likes the leftovers heated up.

Rose white and Red Polish style Beets
Closeup of the Goods


  1. Those rose-white beets are gorgeous! I've never seen that variety in my area. I'll have to ask my local farmers about them.

  2. Jodi, I finally got an answer from our farm about what these beets that I call rose-white really are. Chiogga is the official name.