If you think you don’t like beets, you’ve probably never experienced them freshly-picked. Or else your sole contact with this under-appreciated veggie has been a serving of “pickled” beets made with mushy canned beets and swimming in vinegar.
Newsflash: this is NOT Great Aunt Bertha’s pickled beets. There’s just enough tanginess to offset the the honey and the natural sweetness of the beets, while the anise and basil bring out their earthy notes. The cool crunch of the cucumber adds some textural complexity if you’re serving this as a cold summer supper side dish, but if you want to serve it warm–as an accompaniment to Beef Bourguignon Meatballs, for example–you can eliminate them.
Baked Beet Salad with Cucumbers and Anise Vinaigrette
- 8 medium beets
- 2 t honey
- 2 T cider vinegar
- 2 T balsamic vinegar
- dash of salt
- 1 t anise seed, crushed
- 4-5 fresh basil leaves, minced
- 1 small-to-medium cucumber
Preheat oven to 400°.
If the beets still have leaves attached, trim them off with a paring knife, leaving only ¼-inch or so of stems. Wash the beets under running water to remove any residual dirt, pat dry, and place in the baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until beets are soft and easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. (They can be submerged in cold water to cool them faster if necessary.)
When beets are cool enough to handle, peel the skin. This should slip off fairly easily. Cut the beets into 1-inch chunks.
Peel the cucumber and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Crush the anise seeds, if you haven’t already (you can do this using a rolling pin and cutting board, or run them through a spice grinder) and mince the basil as finely as possible.
Place the beets and cucumbers in a mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the honey, vinegar, salt, pepper, basil, and anise seed. Drizzle over the beets and cucumbers, then toss to coat. Chill before serving.