Roasted beets are as different from their ubiquitous boiled brethren as cherry gelatin is from real cherries. Where boiled beets are bitter and mushy, roasted beets are all sweet and meaty. The challenge to roasting them is that they take time and attention. You can’t walk away because they are likely to bake dry, and it takes a considerable amount of testing and poking to judge their doneness. The slow cooker fixes that. Because slow cookers hold in moisture, they can bake beets without any danger of scorching or dehydration. These beets are baked with orange juice and garlic, and finished with a crunchy fresh relish of walnuts, garlic, parsley, and bits of orange zest. Serve them with any roasted meat or grilled fish.
- 6 large beets (about 2 pounds), stems and leaves trimmed, scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons water
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large clove garlic, quartered, divided
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- ½ cup walnut pieces
- Finely grated zest of ½ orange
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
Arrange the beets in a single layer in a microwave-safe shallow dish. Add the water, cover with microwave-safe plastic wrap, and cook in a microwave at full power for 8 minutes. The beets will be hot and barely cooked; this step makes it easier to peel them without losing a lot of their juice.
Hold under cold running water until the beets are cool enough to handle. Trim off the tough stem ends of the beets, peel with a vegetable peeler, and cut the beets into quarters Put in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
Mix the orange juice, oil, half of the garlic, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the beets and toss to coat. Cover the cooker and cook for 2 to 3 hours on high, or 4 to 5 hours on low, until the beets are fork-tender.
While the beets are cooking, toast the walnuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned and aromatic, about 4 minutes. Cool briefly and chop finely. Chop the remaining garlic and mix with the walnuts, orange zest, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and the parsley; set aside.
Remove the beets from the cooker with a slotted spoon and place in a serving bowl. Sprinkle the walnut gremolata on top and serve.