By Freya Bellin
Beets happen to be delicious simply roasted on their own, but the spice mixture in this recipe really livens them up. It’s hot and citrusy and goes quite well with the natural sweetness of the beets. The headnote below mentions that you’ll have extra spice mixture, and you most certainly will. Sprinkle on a small amount at a time to cover the beets and add more as needed; it was much spicier than I expected it to be. I also highly recommend trying out the honeyed walnuts mentioned in the variation. The honey downplays the spice of the seasoning a bit, and the nuts add a nice crunch.
If there’s one thing I learned from cooking this dish, it’s that peppercorns and sesame seeds are nearly impossible to grind by hand. A spice or coffee grinder help tremendously. Your hands will thank you. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Japanese-Spiced Roasted Beets
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 1 hour, partially unattended
A peppery, smoky blend of spices and seeds tossed with roasted beets produces a sublimely earthy combo—the honey-glazed variation adds sweetness to the mix—that works equally well with parsnips, turnips, potatoes, and winter squash. You’ll have extra spice mixture; refrigerate it for up to a week and use it to season rice, noodles, soups, salads, and other vegetables.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pan
2 pounds beets (about 4 large), peeled and cut into wedges
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon Sichuan or black peppercorns
2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon chili powder
1⁄2 teaspoon poppy seeds
1⁄2 cup sliced scallions
1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Smear a large roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet with a little of the oil. Put the beets in the pan, drizzle with the 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and the sesame oil, and toss to coat.
2. Roast, undisturbed, for 20 minutes before checking. If the beets release easily from the pan, stir them up a bit or turn the pieces over with tongs. If they look dry and are sticking, drizzle with a little more oil and toss. Continue roasting, turning every 10 minutes or so, until crisp on the outside and just tender inside, another 20 to 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, put the peppercorns and white sesame seeds in a spice or coffee grinder and pulverize to a coarse powder. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the orange zest, chili powder, and poppy seeds. When the beets are done—a skewer or sharp knife inserted into one will meet almost no resistance— toss them with the spice mixture, a sprinkling of salt, and the scallions. Return to the oven for a minute or 2, just long enough to toast the spices. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Japanese-Spiced Beets with Honeyed Walnuts. While the beets are roasting, mix 1⁄3 cup chopped walnuts with 2 tablespoons honey in a medium bowl. Add the honeyed walnuts to the beets along with the spice mixture and scallions in Step 3.