Roasted beet sauce is worthy step out of comfort zone

Published 7:37 pm Sunday, September 10, 2017

By Sarah Condley

For a while now, every time I see Carmack Kersey he has great things to say about my columns and reminds me that his favorite things are beets and sauerkraut.

He encourages me to find recipes using both of those items.

Email newsletter signup

Each time I cringe because he knows I don’t like either.

But after a little coaxing from Carmack, I decided  maybe I could try something with beets.

I began scouring the Internet for something besides roasted beets or pickled beets and ran across today’s recipe at

While at the Winchester-Clark County Farmers’ Market one Saturday, I found locally-grown beets at the My Father’s Garden booth and mentioned to Molly Stotts what I was planning.

She suggested I wait just a little longer into the season before buying the beets because the longer they are in the ground, the sweeter they get.

So I kept checking with her each week to see when they were at their peak.

One Saturday as I entered her booth, she said “you might want to get your beets today, it’s time.” I’d already checked the ingredient list and knew I needed three medium beets.

I asked Molly which beets were considered medium and decided I’d buy double what I needed just in case I flubbed the recipe.

The recipe also calls for fresh thyme. Brad doesn’t grow herbs, so I checked around at the market.

No one had any, but when I mentioned that to Molly, she said she had some at home and to just stop by and get some. I told her I’d call her and let her know when I was coming.

I don’t know why, but I was really nervous about trying to prepare this dish. I put it off and put it off, but after four days of those beets staring at me every time I opened the refrigerator, I decided I needed to take the plunge.

Molly and I discussed how to roast them and she agreed with me that dicing them small might let them burn at the temperature suggested.

I again took to the Internet and found out most people wrap them up in foil and when they are done “roasting” the peel rolls right off. I decided that was how I’d roast mine.

When I got home from work, I turned on the oven, washed the beets and cut the tops off. Molly mentioned something about leaving a portion of the stems on, so I did leave just a little bit of the top stems on. Instead of wrapping each beet individually in foil, I just put four (I know the recipe calls for 3, but I decided to use four) of them in a double layer of foil, with some of the olive oil and the thyme.

The author of the recipe mentioned the next time she made the dish she’d roast the garlic along with the beets to take the flavor “over the moon.” So I added the three cloves of peeled garlic to the mix and sprinkled in some salt and pepper.

I closed up the foil, placed the beets in a baking dish — in case there was any leakage of liquid — and put them in the oven to roast.

At this point I decided I would go on and toast the poppy seeds. I put them in a small skillet and turned on the heat. I stirred them quite often and after two minutes, they didn’t smell fragrant to me, but I’m not sure what poppy seeds are supposed to smell like. I probably let them “toast” for a good five minutes or so. I kept bending over trying to smell them, but I never did think I smelled anything fragrant.

Finally, I just said “forget it,” and I poured them into a small bowl to cool. I was afraid if I left them in the hot skillet, they might burn.

My blender has a food processor attachment that I have never used so, I opted to just use one of the single-serving attachments to combine the sauce.

While the beets cooked, I put the rest of the olive oil, the balsamic vinegar and the freshly grated Parmesan into the container.

Instead of vermouth, I used a substitute (which I also found on the Internet): 1/3 cup red wine vinegar and 2/3 cup of water to make 1 cup. The recipe only called for 2 tablespoons of vermouth and I didn’t want to do the math to figure out how to cut the substitute recipe down to 2 tablespoons, so I just used what I needed and threw the rest away. I added this to the food processor container and then was ready to check on the beets.

I opened the oven and unraveled the foil, took a fork and tried to pierce the beets. They were barely soft, so I cut each of them in half and set the timer for 15 more minutes. When I checked them again, they were not soft, but they were getting there. Thinking it would speed the roasting process, I cut each half in half again, and now I realized I almost had “diced” pieces of beet.

I also checked the garlic and it was soft, so I removed it from the foil and put it in the blender container so it would be ready to blend when the beets were done. Finally, after about a total of 70 minutes, the beets were soft.

I removed them from the foil to cool and started the rest of our supper, including turning on the pot of water for the penne pasta.

The beets cooled quickly and I began trying to get the peel off. I guess since I cut them up, the peel didn’t slide right off like I thought it would. I had to use a paring knife to get it off. As I peeled each piece, I added it to the blender.

When all of the beet pieces were added to the container, I began blending it. The mixture was so thick I didn’t think I could get it out of the container so I went ahead and added the chicken broth and cream. After a few pulses in the blender, I had this fear that the cream would turn to butter, so I stopped and scraped as much out of the container as I could. I put the sauce in a pan, added the sugar, the rest of the Parmesan and a pinch of salt.

I let the sauce simmer until the pasta was al dente. By this time, everything else was ready for our meal too.

I drained the pasta and started pouring the sauce over it and mixing. It looked like there was too much sauce for me, so I didn’t add all of it.

Then I sprinkled some of the toasted poppy seeds on top and stirred. I didn’t end up using all of the poppy seeds.

Brad and I sat down to eat and he blessed the food. Brad looked at me and asked, “Where are the beets.” I him told him they were in the sauce with the pasta.

He was disappointed. He thought he was going to have plain ole roasted beets. I told him we had a few more beets in the refrigerator and I could fix them tomorrow.

Before we served ourselves, Brad thought the pasta looked like it needed a bit more sauce so I poured a little more on it and stirred it in to coat the noodles.

We both scooped out some pasta and took a bite. Neither of us thought this was bad, but neither of us thought it was the best thing ever either.

I didn’t feel like I was tasting the beets, but Brad said he could taste them, though it wasn’t a strong flavor. It did need a bit more salt, which we both just sprinkled on to our liking.

Since there was pasta leftover, I put some in a container to take to Carmack, along with the rest of the sauce.

I delivered it to his office the next day and left word with the lady at the desk to tell him to let me know what he thought about it. A few days later, I got a voicemail from Carmack telling me he loved the beet sauce.

He said his wife Kathy told him might have enjoyed it more if he had taken the time to heat it up. Carmack said he never had any type of beet sauce and it was a winner.

Though I nailed this recipe, until Carmack called I hadn’t decided if I was going to add it to my self-made cookbook.

With Carmack’s blessing, I have to keep it.

Sarah Condley is an amateur baker and chef who is compiling a cookbook of her favorite recipes.