You can’t beat beets for Thanksgiving dinner

Pickled beets add depth to a beet and apple salad. PHOTO: Creative Commons

Pumpkins, squashes, tomatoes, beets, apples, pears, leeks, onions, herbs, cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms — my gracious, the list goes on and on. We are fortunate indeed to have this paradise of colour, variety and goodness right at our doorstep. Whether a farmer’s market, supermarket, fall fair or our own garden, we are surrounded by quality abundance.

This season calls for giving thanks and appreciating all that we have on our groaning Thanksgiving tables. Here are two simple salads to add to your Thanksgiving feast – vibrant and bursting with flavour, they are tasty accompaniments to the grand turkey.

Beet and Apple Salad

Originally, this was my mother’s recipe. She would make it with her garden beets or, in a rush, substitute canned beets, preferably the small rosebud beets, although sliced beets are good too.

However, my daughter Alexa enjoyed the beet apple combo so much she began making it with her own pickled beets.

Now, this adaptation is the request for all of our family gatherings. Its rich colour and sweet sour flavour is perfect with chicken, pork, barbecue of any sort and, of course, turkey. As you can see, you can make this any number of ways depending on your own preferences.

If time is tight, use commercially prepared pickled beets and your favourite apple.

  • 4 cups (1 L) pickled or cooked, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2-3 cups (500 mL) quartered, cored apple cut into coarse dice, leave skins on
  • 1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped celery (less if you are not a celery fan!)

Creamy Yogurt Dressing

  • 3/4 cup (375 mL) mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) fresh lemon juice (optional, not necessary if using pickled beets)

To prepare beets: You can either boil the scrubbed beets for 35 – 45 minutes (depending on size — small rosebud beets are ideal for this salad but if using large beets, be sure to slice them 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick once they are cooked and cooled) or roast on a baking sheet at 400 F (200 C) for about 45 minutes or until beets are tender. Cool until able to handle and slip beets out of their skin. If they are small, leave whole. Otherwise, slice beets 1/4 inch thick.

Combine diced beets, apples and celery in mixing bowl. In separate bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt and lemon juice if using. Pour over enough dressing to lightly coat vegetable-fruit mixture. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. The salad looks dramatic heaped on a white platter garnished with sprigs of fresh dill or parsley. Salad may be made several hours ahead or overnight. Makes 6 servings. Recipe doubles easily for a crowd.

Quick Pickled Beets

  • 20 small, whole beets, (1 to 1 1/2 inches) scrubbed, tops removed and cooked according to directions above, cooled then skin removed. Save beet liquid from cooking beets.

Pickling Liquid

  • 1 cup (250 mL) cider vinegar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) reserved beet liquid from cooking beets
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) mixed pickling spice
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) salt

Prepare beets according to directions above reserving 1 cup (250 mL) beet liquid. In a saucepan, bring vinegar, reserved beet liquid, brown sugar,pickling spice and salt to boil; boil 5 minutes. Pack beets into jars or in a pinch mixing bowl; pour pickling liquid over, cover and refrigerate, allowing beets to marinate at least one week before using.

Lemon Carrot and Coriander Salad

I recently enjoyed a holiday to Cornwall. One of the tastiest items sampled was a carrot and coriander salad made from yellow and orange heritage carrots. Their bright colour and flavour would add sparkle to a Thanksgiving feast. Although a spiralator or special food processor had been used to cut the carrots into thin julienne strips, you could use a box grater to coarsely grate the carrots.

  • 8 -10 medium carrots, scrubbed with tops removed, either use a spiralator or grate coarsely on a box grate
  • 1/4 (50 mL) chopped fresh coriander leaves

Lemon Dressing

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) milk
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  •  Salt and pepper to taste

Use a spiralator or box grater to prepare carrots. Combine carrots in a large bowl. In a food processor or mixing bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, coriander, lemon juice, milk, rind, crushed garlic, salt and pepper until well blended. Taste. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Pour dressing over carrots tossing to coat evenly. Arrange carrot mixture in serving bowl and sprinkle coriander evenly over salad. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours before serving. Serves 6 – 8.

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