March 11, 2011

Gimme A Beet – The Remix

Full disclosure. Today, we are going to embark on a hot topic. Something that often makes people uncomfortable and in some circles, may even be deemed controversial.


Sigh. I said it.

Those round, oddly-shaped little buggers that give many eaters – healthy, adventurous, curious, and beyond – major pause. They look strange. They seem like they’d be difficult to peel – if that is even how you are supposed to prepare them. And when it comes to actually cutting into the tubers, well you better prepare for a blood bath. Those suckers will happily dye everything around you a deep shade of red.

So when it comes to choosing a vegetable to cook, beets are rarely at the top of my list. I’d much rather leave them underground where they won’t stain my pre-labor-day-legal white pants. I’d rather cut up a more well behaved radish instead.

But let’s pause for a moment. Because when it comes to successful low sodium cooking, one must be adventurous, braving new ingredients – whether it is a spice, an herb, a vegetable, or a cooking technique – that you have never tried before. It is about surprising your palate. Or even more importantly, it is about surprising yourself.

So let’s get back to those beets. Let’s give them the second look they deserve.

Many people seem to love them; their juice is used in a lot of commercial products (including red velvet cake and even ketchup); and it is even said to be a natural aphrodisiac. It seems, upon further investigation, that beets are meant to be loved. And eaten. And eaten with love.

There are many ways to accomplish this.

Throw them in a salad:

Make them into a burger:

Or a carpaccio tower with some avocado:

Or even those little potato, carrot, beet hash cakes you see above. Recipe below.

But before you totally dive into to the world of beets, here are a few more tips:

One – If you are wearing something you love, put on an apron. Or better yet, cook in the nude. Or maybe just throw on some old t-shirt that is already covered in slobber or paint.

Two – If you are using the beets in their raw form (like in a salad or for pickles), peel off their skin by holding the beet in your left (or not dominant) hand while scraping the peeler (right thumb on top) toward you. This makes the whole process a lot easier. You’ll see.

Three – If you are cooking the beets, wrap them in tin foil before you throw them in the oven. After they have cooked, allow them to cool and then use the tinfoil to rub off the skin. This keeps the juicy mess to a major minimum.

Four – A single beet can contain upwards of 64mg of sodium. Seriously. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them. Just be aware. And feel free to use beets in dishes that you want to taste a little more “salty.” It is a natural way to enhance flavor and that’s why they work so well for pickles.

Five – Your pee will most likely be red after eating them. I’m not joking. It’s called beeturia. Look it up.

With that, rock out to some fresh beets with any of the recipes in this post and discover the new world of color, texture, and taste at your low sodium (and now red) fingertips.

Chow on.



  • 2 cups peeled and grated carrots
  • 3/4 cups peeled and grated beets
  • 1/4 cup peeled and grated potatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Safflower or canola oil for frying


Quick note about prepping the veggies: feel free to use a hand grater or, for faster prep, use a food processor with a grater attachment. Either will work well. And before cooking them, put the grated veggies into a paper or cloth towel and squeeze over the sink, forcing out the liquid.

1. Place the carrots, beets, potatoes, pepper, and flour into a mixing bowl. With your hands, combine all the ingredients. Crack both eggs into the bowl and mix again until everything is well combined. Wash your hands and set aside.

2. Heat a frying pan and 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high flame. When spitting hot, form the carrot, beet, potato mixture into a palm-sized pancake and place in the oil. Add a few more pancake patties to the pan so long as it does not get over crowded. Allow them to cook about 8 minutes on one side, or until a nice crust forms. Flip and cook on the other side. Remove patties to a cooling rack or a plate covered with a paper towel, and continue cooking the carrot, beet, potato cakes until the mixture is gone. Add extra oil to the pan if needed.

3. Serve immediately and offer guests either some crème fraiche, greek yogurt, or a light dressing made of white wine vinegar, pepper, and dill.

Dishy March 11, 2011 at 10:00 am

Oh Sodium Girl, WHY?? Why must you try to make me eat beets. WORST. VEGGIE. EVER.


That said, photos are beautiful (but even they cannot entice me)

PS: I am going to try your lemon meringue this weekend — in a pie! Sadly, I do not own ramekins. (Between us, if I ever bothered investing in them, my kids would find other uses for them anyway.)

lizthechef March 11, 2011 at 10:00 am

Sometimes I deal with the everything-turns-red-including-me by picking up some yellow guys…

sodium girl March 11, 2011 at 10:02 am

Agreed about the yellow guys. I actually like the taste of them better and I think they are a great place to begin. And Dishy, maybe you should start with the golden beets and then perhaps graduate to the rubies…I double dog dare you.

thedailydish March 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Oh trust me – I’ve tried them. I hosted a CSA for years before we left Philly, beets were on the menu week after week after tortuous week. For all their gorgeous color, beets are one of the few veggies I abhor. Roasted, grated, boiled, pickled – UGH. I’ve yet to find I way I can stomach them. And I like them better than anyone else in my family! LOL

Beets for me = truly awful.

Daphne and family March 11, 2011 at 10:36 am

So just this morning I was looking over the last 5# of beets that I had left over from making 15# of pickled beets last fall. I was thinking of you and wondering what kind of canning can be done without salt. Pondering that I opened up Sodium Girl and….What a coincidence of beets today!
So for people who dont like beets, well that is just a shame. It is in the beet where the beauty of vegetables really lies. How can you not love the color? Ok so it isnt so great on something you love, but really that color is amazing and it grows underground! Then there is the depth of flavor that allows you to really experience the complexity of a life underground…its like the earth has delivered a treasure and you get to eat it! Then there are all the ways that you can eat it which Jess clearly has a handle on. AND you must realize that it is at the top of all lists of ‘power’ foods, choc full of good things that we all need.
Hot with a drizzle of EVOO and a touch of cinnamon, cold or pickled they are the best. I can’t wait to try Jess’s recipes.
Note: I steam them and then use rubber gloves to slide off the skins rinsing them under cool water as I do it. No purple hands.

sodium girl March 11, 2011 at 11:57 am

Great trick with the gloves and steaming! And for all the other readers, I just saw a beauty shot of her beautiful pickled beets. Just gorgeous!

Rhonda35 March 11, 2011 at 10:57 am

Sorry – this is probably a silly question, but why hold the beet in the dominant hand when peeling? I would think that the dominant hand should be working the peeler. ?????

I think the salad with the beets looks delicious!

sodium girl March 11, 2011 at 11:56 am

Thanks, Rhonda! You are so correct. I had a early morning/not enough coffee moment. I’ve made some changes and hopefully it now makes way more sense.

Barbara March 12, 2011 at 3:31 am

I eat sliced, cooked, canned beets with sugar sprinkled on top. (Fried green tomatoes are good that way, too!) I also pickle them by adding vinegar and sugar or artificial sweetner to canned sliced beets, boiling briefly, then chilling. Delicious all by themselves or in a salad! They’re so pretty and so yummy!

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