Red beets or beet root? However, you describe this deep purple red root vegetable, there is intensity. People love or hate this earthy vegetable. But, I believe there are only two kinds of people regarding the beet. Those who love them, and those who are yet to be converted. I know this because I converted the biggest beat hater, my husband, years ago. Yesterday I converted a food blogger who ate this pesto, trusting me that it would be a good experience, even though she has always hated beets.
I made a trip to Denver this summer for an opportunity that never worked out, and because I’m such an optimist, I dug deeply to find something positive about the experience. The food was fantastic, no matter where I ate, especially my experiences at Root Down.
It all comes back to food, doesn’t it? Root Down has a restaurant at the airport and on my way home, I sampled a beet pesto and nearly jumped up and down. When an old food is prepared in a new way and I learn something, taste something new, I get excited. It’s my life’s study to appreciate food, especially vegetables.
They gave me the recipe; I changed it a tiny bit, using raw beets instead of pickled beets because I have a Vitamix that handles raw beets well, proven with this red beet smoothie. I think it’s better my way, but if you don’t have a super duper blender that will crush the beets, you can cook them first. I did add in a touch of balsamic vinegar in addition to orange and lemon, so there is plenty of acid, olive oil, garlic, and surprisingly, sunflower seeds.
The beet pesto saved the day because I tried to make this red quinoa brussels sprouts salad and the quinoa didn’t cook right. It didn’t have it’s usual bite. I always use Whole Foods red quinoa from their bin, but this time I had used a different brand. Time was short, and I decided I didn’t want to stop and bring a wedge of cheese to the party. So, I made this beet pesto, added it to the salad, and it was delicious and made all the difference. The sunflower seed flavor came through as well as the earthiness of the beets, but it was all subtle and well balanced.
Until I had this beet pesto at Root Down, served with a skirt steak, I’d thought I had done every kind of thing possible with beets including smacking them upside the head in my Vitamix.
The beet pesto is exquisitely nuanced with handfuls of sunflower seeds and basil, and good enough to just eat with a spoon, spread on toast, dollop on other vegetables, but I have to tell you, it’s a wonderful match for this shaved Brussels sprouts salad.
Whatever you choose to do with the red beet pesto, made with basil and sunflower seeds, you will choose to eat it all up. You’ll be amazed if you are a beet lover and never had beets this way, and amazed if you were a beet hater, because this will convert you.
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup blended olive oil
- 2/4 cup basil
- juice of half lemon
- 1 cups raw beets, peeled, chopped (see note)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cloves chopped garlic
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- ½ to 1 teaspoon wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- If you have a Vitamix: Place everything in the vitamix and blend until you have a thick pesto-type consistency.
- If you don't have a Vitamix, soften the beets by boiling for 30 minutes. Cool completely.
- Put everything except the vinegar into the food processor and process until you have the consistency of pesto. Add vinegar a little at a time. It should not be the predominant taste. Season with salt and pepper. Serve cold, room temperature or hot.