Before passing on that bowl of borscht, consider the health benefits of its main ingredient: beets. This often unloved veggie contains fiber and potassium and is an excellent source of folate -- just a half cup of cooked beets provides 17% of the recommended daily folate intake -- and, like all vegetables, has no saturated fats or cholesterol. Researchers believe the red pigment (called betacyanin) in beets could protect against development of cancerous cells and might play a role in reducing the inflammation associated with heart disease.
Traditionally known for their dark red hue, these root veggies also come in shades of gold and white. Napoleon made the vegetable famous in 19th-century France by capitalizing on the beets' high sugar content -- among the highest of all vegetables -- and creating hundreds of refined sugar mills. Beets can be steamed, boiled, pickled, roasted, or eaten raw, but because they contain more natural sugar than starch, they are particularly delicious oven-roasted, which concentrates the sugar rather than leaching it into cooking liquid.
Roasted Beet, Pear, Walnut, and Goat Cheese Salad
Makes 6 servings
1 lb beets (red or golden)
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
1 large pear, cored and sliced
3 cups arugula or mixed salad greens
¼ cup crumbled low-fat goat cheese
4 tbsp chopped walnuts, toasted
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp sherry or champagne vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp minced shallots
¼ tsp salt; fresh ground pepper
1. Prepare dressing: combine all ingredients
in a jar and shake vigorously or whisk together
in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Trim beet greens,
leaving root and an inch of stem; scrub beets with vegetable brush.
3. Place beets in a pan coated with cooking spray. Roast beets for 45 minutes or until tender.
4. When cool, rub off skins and trim root and stem. Slice beets and drizzle with a tablespoon of dressing and toss to coat.
5. Divide arugula among six salad plates; top each with beets, onion, pear slices, cheese and nuts.
6. Drizzle with remaining dressing.