The first time I tasted extra-virgin olive oil, I couldn’t believe I had lived without it (Well, ahem, sort of. See video.) for so many years. Now I hoard it like people hoard bottled water in fear of some catastrophic emergency. And, as insane as it may sound given today’s travel restrictions, I even bring it back from Italy upon my frequent trips to Florence.
So…it’s true. I have said in a previous post that I don’t like to mix my cuisines, that is, my Italian and my Mexican, but there are Mexican dishes that can only be improved with olive oil.
Vegetables, in general, are always perfectly enhanced with the flavor of a good quality extra-virgin olive oil drizzled over them. Beets (betabeles), in particular, are a side dish my mother always served. She prepared them in a simple way: boiled and salted. In Laredo, at this time of the year our citrus trees were loaded with oranges, tangerines, limes, and grapefruit. Here is a recipe that combines the beets—roasted, not boiled—with the citrus of the season, along with the very Mexican flavor of cilantro and the unmistakable mediterranean flavor of good olive oil.
Roasted Beets with Blood Orange Slices
Approximately 1½ lbs beets
4 blood oranges (or regular oranges)
½ cup walnuts
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ cup water for the bottom of baking pan
½ cup extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
Remove the greens and wash the beets thoroughly. Place them on a baking dish in which they all fit snugly. Pour the water into the pan so that it covers about ¼ inch of the bottom of the pan. Drizzle the vegetables with the oil. Sprinkle with salt to taste and cover with aluminum foil. Cook at 350 degrees for approximately 45 to 60 minutes until you can pierce the beets with a fork all the way through.
While the beets are cooking, remove the peel from the oranges with a sharp paring knife. Cut in slices, starting from the end of the orange. Put aside.
Remove the beets from the oven and peel them. Quarter them and arrange them in a serving dish. Add the orange slices, cilantro, and walnuts. Taste again for salt, toss carefully, and drizzle with more oil if needed.
For further reading about olive oil, see this informative post by David Lebovitz.