CSA Challenge, Part II For me, beets are nostalgic. They remind me of family dinners and of my father.  Even way out in Hawaii, he always managed to bring beets to our table, along with stories of Californian farming and summers spent on river bottoms.  Lately in my house, beets have been finding their way into the most unexpected of dishes.  New favorite: using rich, tangy and colorful beets to liven up salsas.  Take these two delectables:  Beet-O De Gallo and Roasted Beet Salsa.

Why eat beets? Because beets, (especially the greens), are packed full of vitamins C, A, calcium and iron.  They also have high levels of folic acid, magnesium and potassium and are excellent sources of fiber.  They have long been used in treating liver disorders, by stimulating detoxification. And for lowering cholesterol.

Beets have also gained attention for their anti-cancer properties.  The bright red pigment that gives beets their color, aka betacyanin, is a powerful antioxidant and cancer fighting agent.  Betacyanin works to inhibit cancer causing cell mutations, and when combined with beet's excellent fiber, helping to cleanse the body of its toxins. (Micheal Murray, 2005)

Roasted Beet Salsa

INGREDIENTS

2-3 medium red beets, roasted

4 ripe tomatoes  (Roma's work great)

1/2 an onion

1 jalapeno (adjust for heat)

3 cloves garlic (in their skins)

1 lime

handful of fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons of cumin

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

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Heat the oven to 400.  Slice tomatoes and jalapenos length wise, remove seeds and stem. (Set aside half of the fresh jalapeno to add later.) Chop the onion into large chunks.  Add all the chopped veggies, plus the garlic cloves with skins intact, to a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper.  Roll the vegetables around on the pan to evenly coat. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes, flipping half way through.

To roast beets, first wash then and then place all the beets in a large piece of tinfoil. Drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and loosely wrap the tinfoil around them. Beets should be roasted at 400 for 20-40 minutes (or until they can be easily pierced.)

Once the tomatoes, onions and jalapenos are roasted, add them to a food processor along with a handful of cilantro (stems included), juice of 1/2-1 lime (to taste) and 1 teaspoon of ground cumin. Remove garlic from their casing and also add to the food processor.  Blend until smooth.  At this point taste the salsa for flavor and adjust cumin, lime, salt and pepper to your liking.  Cayenne pepper can also be added to increase the heat.

Put the roasted tomato mixture into a bowl.

Once the beets are soft, remove them from the oven and foil and let them cool for 5-10 minutes.  Once roasted, the beet skin should be easily removed by hand.  Remove skin and dice the beets.  Mix them into your roasted tomato salsa.

Enjoy with grilled or roasted meats, scrambled eggs, crustini with goat cheese, and of course, tortilla chips.

Note: the longer the beets sit in the salsa, the more sweet and purple the dish will become. I recommend making the night before.

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Beet-O De Gallo

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cup diced tomatoes (1-2 tomatoes)

1 cup of diced, roasted beets (see recipe above on roasting beets)

1/4 cup diced red onion

1 tablespoon of diced jalapeno

1 tablespoon of minced garlic

Juice of two small limes

3 tablespoons of loosely chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Season with salt, pepper and fresh chili powder.

*My favorite way to eat this salsa is on a veggie-heavy tostada!