June 27, 2013

Orange Flower Glazed Beets

Beets have a bit of that love 'em or hate 'em thing going on. Judging by the lingering trend of beet salads in restaurants along the west coast, I'm guessing a lot more people love them than not - although I'm betting certain vegetarians I know are a little tired of beet-salad-as-token-veggie-item on the menu.

Happily, there are other things you can do with beets other than salad-izing them (although this recipe would be awesome as part of a salad. I'm just saying). Borscht is a perennial favourite, of course, and pickled beets are still a very good plate-finisher, for those times when you just want a little extra splash of colour and another vegetable on the plate. While technically still a salad, Ethiopian Beet & Potato Salad is a very different creature from the leaf-based beet salad offerings in these parts, which may or may not sport feta, gorgonzola, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, or all of the above.

Orange flower water gives this a slightly exotic, yet hard to define quality that feels quite elegant. Orange flower water can be found at most Middle Eastern groceries, and some regular supermarkets, too. It is usually stored right next to the more commonly known (around here) rose water, so if you ask for it and get a blank, ask for the rose water, and then look to see what else they have. Come to think of it, these might be pretty good with rose water, too. Hmm.

These are pretty easy to make, and best of all, they are delicious hot or cold, so go ahead and make a full batch.

Orange Flower Glazed Beets
Adapted from Simply Recipes

2 pounds red beets, small or medium in size
Olive oil
Kosher salt
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon orange flower water
pinch of white pepper

Wash your beets and peel them. I recommend using a good vegetable peeler or small sharp knife, and peel them under running cold water, collecting the peels in a sieve or colander. Then, simply shake the excess water off of the peelings, dump them into your compost bucket (or a bag to go into your garbage, or however you dispose of such things).

Slice your beets into wedges, and lay them out on a big sheet of heavy duty foil that has been lightly oiled with olive oil. Sprinkle sparingly with salt, and fold the foil sheet into a pouch, sealing the edges well. put the pouch on a big baking sheet (if you're clever, you might start with the baking sheet already under the foil), and pop it into the oven for 45 minutes at 400 F, or until the beets are tender. Test them at that point by sliding a knife into one (right through the foil) to see if they're done. If not (unlikely) let them cook another fifteen minutes, and try again.

When the beets are done, take them out of the oven and peel back the foil so that they start to cool down. Be careful about the steam when you open the foil - it can burn you quite badly. I use a long handled fork to tear my foil open.

While the beets are resting, put the vinegar, sugar, orange flower water, a pinch of salt, and white pepper in a skillet, and cook over high until it becomes thick and glaze-like. Turn off the heat, and add the beets to the skillet, stirring them gently around until they are completely coated with the glaze. Taste, carefully, because liquid sugar is really darn hot, and adjust for salt if necessary. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve warm, or allow to cool, and chill until needed.

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