getting down with the beet

The lowly beet has struggled from dirt to fine dining. For years this earthy root vegetable suffered from an image right down there with the turnip.

The lowly beet has struggled from dirt to fine dining.

For years this earthy root vegetable suffered from an image right down there with the turnip. However, chefs are now roasting and shaving the common garden beet, and the orange Chiogga over micro-greens.

Or trickling lemon and olive oil over sliced beets, blood oranges and red onions for a delicious prologue to a main course. When I visited at Inn On The Lake last October, Chef Phil McCaffrey napped a salad with beetroot “snow,” a lovely setup for Alberta beef, roasted rare.

Top black rye with smoked salmon or cold beef tongue, if you dare. Nap with horseradish cream. Indulge in a dry vodka Gibson (that’s a pearl onion gracing the glass, instead of an olive) on ice and you’ve got the makings for a fine luncheon.

I still have a soft spot, though, for beet’s humbler roots. For instance, my dad’s pickled beets—briny, but not vinegar sharp, subtly clove and cinnamon-stick spiced. (Tip: pickle hard-cooked eggs in leftover beet brine. They turn lurid pink, but taste great.)

Beets, simply prepped, sidle up splendidly to corned beef brisket or roast lamb. Boil young unpeeled beets until tender then slip away the skins. Roast mature beets. Place one bunch of whole, washed, but not peeled beetroot, about half cup of water, a good splash of olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 400-degree oven for about 45 minutes.

Pierce the beetroot with a thin knife or skewer. (Do not use a wide blade, as beets will bleed profusely) Remove the skins, slice or chunk, add salt and pepper and a dab of butter—maybe add a smattering of fresh dill.

My favourite rustic meal, hands down, is a big bowl of rosy borscht (“barszcz” in Polish), topped with a good dollop of thick sour cream. Icy days beg for a steaming bowl of borscht and its various adaptations on its Eastern European roots, as rich as the soup itself. Chilled tangy borscht refreshes in summer.

Russian Jews mainly get credit for bringing borscht to America. In Soviet-born Lara Vapnyr’s short story Borscht (from Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love) Borscht is the glue that holds together two struggling Russian immigrants. “Sergei, comes to America to earn money. He battles solitude by hiring a clumsy Russian prostitute, who is as fed up as he is. When the sex fails, the two rustle up a pot of comforting borscht.”

I fix quick borscht (not for the above reasons). Dice one onion, two or three cloves minced garlic, one large celery stalk with leaves, and one large peeled carrot. Sweat the vegetables in oil (1-1 ratio canola/olive) in a large saucepan. Add one bunch of roasted, peeled, grated beets then pour about four cups of vegetable or chicken stock salt pepper, and a pinch of smoked paprika or dillweed to the pot.

When heated through whirl half the soup in a blender (not food processor), and return to the unblended mixture. Dish it up steaming or chilled and float a Yukon gold potato and a dollop of good quality yogurt atop the soup. Delicious, earthy, sweet,

and simple.

More complex recipes include shredded brisket or beef shank, tomatoes, cubed potatoes, maybe kielbassa or bacon and cabbage. (All-cabbage borscht is Mennonite or Doukabor in origin).

Borscht is ecumenical and easygoing in its taste for wine—red or white. White wine brings out borscht’s sweet tang and is nice for summer. Lighter style reds match well with the soup’s earthy characteristics. Eastern European lager—hardly surprising—works beautifully

Listed with the Yukon Liquor Corp.


Argentina: Norton Lotengo Malbec $15.75

Canada: Gray Monk Pinot Noir $17.75

Canada: Heritage Series Cabernet Franc $15.50

Hungary: Monipex Szekszardi Voros $14.25 1L


Germany: Kendermann Pinot Grigio $14.90

South Africa: KWV Roberts Rock Chenin Chard $11.30


Czech Republic: Czechvar $3.40


Pilsner Urquell $15.55 6pk/330ml.



500ml. $3.55

Russian Federation: Baltika $3.10

Julie Pegg is a Vancouver-based

food and wine writer.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

City council meeting in Whitehorse on Feb. 8. At Whitehorse city council’s March 1 meeting, members were presented with a bylaw that would repeal 10 bylaws deemed to be redundant or out of date. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Out with the old

Council considers repealing outdated bylaws

A bobcat is used to help clear snow in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 4. According to Environment Canada, the Yukon has experienced record-breaking precipitation this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon will have “delayed spring” after heavy winter snowfall

After record levels of precipitation, cold spring will delay melt

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read