Bay-Leaf-Scented Beets (London, August 31, 2011)

Today was one of those days when I wish I had an extensive electronic music library. Five hours were spent photographing objects at the British Museum. More specifically, I took 244 photos of architectural tiles from a ninth-century palace in Iraq. Click, type, click, type, from 10 AM to 4 PM with a one-hour lunch break. That means a lot of time with nothing but your own thoughts.

I was also almost out of food today and wasn’t particularly inspired to cook.

I left the museum feeling a bit glazed over (tile-pun intended). On my walk home, though, I found that I was in the mood for beets. Maybe it’s because it’s the end of August and, here in London, the air is definitely getting more fall-like. Or maybe I’ve been using too much kale lately and am in the mood for something more rooty and less leafy. Either way, I ended up going home with a bunch of beets determined to make a meal out of it.

I almost always have some thyme and bay leaf around, and it struck me that these might pair very well with beets. I googled beets + bay leaf. A few soups came up. It’s not a soup night for me though. I decided to try simply roasting the beets with the bay leaves mixed in. The outcome was subtle: more of a hint than a full-fledged flavor imparted to the beets, but it’s worth it, and the wonderful earthy smell of the kitchen after this dish is done is a major plus. I had this with store-bought St.Marcellin  style cheese and toasted bread. It was a cheap, easy and an all-together satisfying experience.

Notes: I like to keep the skin on beets when I cook them- the same with potatoes and carrots. This is a preference and you can peel the beets if you wish. I soaked the bay-leaves in water before using them so they’d be moist and wouldn’t shrivel up. If anyone has other tips on how to get the most out of roasted bay-leaves, I’d love to know!

Bay-Leaf-Scented Beets

Ingredients (for two)

4-6 beets

10 whole bay leaves

Several stems of thyme or oregano, dry or fresh

Several pinches sea salt

Black pepper to taste

Olive oil


Soak the bay-leaves in warm water for about 30 minutes to moisten them.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash and scrub the beets thoroughly to remove dirt from the skin if you’re keeping it on. Then chop off the top of the bulb and the slender root. Divide the bulbs into two, then each half into thirds (this should give you good, bite-sized pieces).

Put the chopped beets and soaked bay leaves in a roasting pan. Drizzle a liberal amount of olive oil over them and give it a shake so that the oil covers the beets and leaves and they all begin to stick together. Add several pinches of good sea salt and black pepper.

Roast the beets in the oven for between 50 minutes and an hour. I like mine to still be a little crunchy and less sweet, so I go toward the 45-50 minute range with these.

  1. Now I know what I’m going to do with the first harvest of beets in my garden! I might try roasting them in a foil pouch to see if more of the bay leaf flavor will be infused being in an enclosed steamy packet. I’ll let you know. I’d like to invite you to join #SpiceChat on Twitter Sept. 14th. We are talking about bay leaves and I love to have you share a link to your post. If you can’t make it to the chat I’ll share the link for you. I realized the time difference makes it difficult. The chat is 4 pm ET, here are details:

    • sabaladas said:

      Hi Carol- thanks for your comment! The foil’s a great idea- maybe finishing them off under the broiler uncovered to ensure a crisp skin? Let me know how it goes! I’d love to join the next spice chat and will try- I’m usually still up at that hour but if not then please feel free to share the link. Thanks again for stopping by!

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