There are many people who don’t like beets and may wince at the thought of eating the crimson colored vegetable. And, there are those who really love them. Whether you’re an avid beet lover or not, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day I thought I’d share why we should fall in love with beets, an extremely nutritious food that should be on your plate as often as possible.
Beets are an insane source of vitamins and minerals, and they happen to be tasty and delicious too! Did you know they’re the second largest source of sugar, after sugar cane? This means they’re packed with tons of flavor underneath their rugged exterior. You can think of beets as red spinach, a powerfood. Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains which have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. They’re also nature’s Viagra! Wait, what??? Seriously. One of the first known uses of beets was by the ancient Romans, who used them medicinally as an aphrodisiac. Yes, beets contain high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones.
If you fall in the camp of those who don’t like beets, I hope you’ll reconsider. Just a single serving of beets can do wonders like lower your blood pressure and help boost your energy levels. And, if you begin a long-term relationship with beets, they can help you prevent cancer, reduce arthritic pain, lose weight, and so much more (8 Healthy Reasons to Eat Beets).
Beets can be eaten many ways—fresh and raw, roasted, boiled, in juice form, in soups, desserts, and more. Here, I cooked my pasta in fresh beet juice, a riff on the centuries-old technique of boiling pasta in wine. I got the idea from Saveur. The beet juice saturates the pasta with color and infuses it with the sweet flavor of beets. The ruby red colored pasta may be the star of the show, but the orange-tarragon vinaigrette is not far behind.
At first, I wasn’t sure how I should season my beet pasta. The first time I made it I tried a couple of types of simple dressings. I found them to be just okay. The next time I made it I decided to pair the pasta with orange zest and tarragon, an aromatic herb with a mild anise flavor. Frequently used in French cuisine, tarragon complements pasta very nicely, particularly when combined with citrus flavors like orange and/or lemon. The flavor combination really raises the beet infused pasta to a whole new level of deliciousness. I hope you try it and fall in love. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Beet Linguine with Orange-Tarragon Vinaigrette
1½-2 cups fresh beet juice
½ pound linguine (or other pasta of choice)
1 sprig fresh tarragon
pistachios, roasted and chopped (optional)
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
zest of ½ an orange
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Make the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, combine the shallot, vinegar and a pinch of salt. Let stand for about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, orange zest, tarragon, and oil. Taste and season with salt.
Using a juice extractor or juicer, juice about 5 medium size beets to yield about 2 cups of fresh beet juice. Stop by your local juice bar if you don’t have a juicer.
Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta.
In a large skillet, bring 1 cup of the juice to boil. In the meantime, add pasta to the pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Strain the pasta and transfer it to the skillet with the boiling beet juice to finish cooking. Add more juice a little at a time, until the pasta is al dente.
When pasta is done, toss it with the vinaigrette until all the noodles are well coated. Serve garnished with fresh tarragon leaves and pistachios, if using.