Not so long ago, I wasn’t a huge fan of beets. Beets are among the sweetest veggies out there but they also have a really unusual flavor. Beets have a sweetness that is also really earthy and dense.
This can make beets taste like dirt.
I think the flavor of beets depends entirely on how they’re cooked and what they’re combined with. It took me a long time to find a really delicious combination. Turns out, beets do really well with vinegar, but my personal favorite is umeboshi plum vinegar. If you’ve never heard of umeboshi plum vinegar, you are missing out. It’s a little tangy and a little fruity and a little (but not a lot) vinegary, with a little kick of umami — savory. Beets and umeboshi plum vinegar are a match made in heaven.
A few years ago I discovered this and created a very simple recipe combining these 2 elements in a Sassy salad that I posted on this blog. The recipe has evolved since then into something even better, so I’m updating it for your digestive pleasure.
Oh and the whole idea for this came from remembering a regular feature in Vegetarian Times, which I used to get in high school when I was a brand new vegetarian. Each month, they’d offer a recipe that had meat or dairy or eggs and had been “redone” vegetarian or vegan. Or made with less sugar or far or whatever. This is my tribute to the “recipe redux” column from my veggie childhood.
Recipe Redux: Sassy Beet, Tomato, and Barley Salad
1 tbs oil (sesame, olive, coconut — whatever your favorite one is)
4 medium beets, peeled and cut into smallish triangular pieces (cut the beet in half, then take the halves and cut in half, and then slice 1/8 inch pieces from those 2 halves)
12 baby tomatoes, cut into quarters
2 carrots, shredded
3 Tbs shredded coconut
2 tbs pumpkin seeds
2 Tbs sliced almonds
a splash of umeboshi plum vinegar
1/2 cup barley + 1 cup water
Cook your barley in the water. Once the water boils, reduce heat to low and barley should cook in about 30-40 minutes. When done, set aside to cool. I usually do this step first thing in the morning so my barley is ready whenever I need it and I don’t have to wait for it at lunch/dinner time.
Preheat the oven to 375. Coat the beets with oil and a little salt, if you want. Place them on a baking sheet in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven and how crispy you want those beets). When they’re done to your satisfaction (tender and easily pierced with a fork, but not crispy, does it for me) remove from the over and set aside to cool.
While beets are cooking, toast your shredded coconut, pumpkin seeds, and almonds. You want the coconut golden, not dark brown. Should take about 3 minutes or so.
While the beets are cooking, you can also prep the remaining ingredients: chopping the tomatoes and shredding the carrots.
When everything is done and not super hot, divide everything into 2 bowls, add a splash of umeboshi vinegar and stir it all up.
Eat it and fall in love with beets, all over again.