Braising recipe will have you sweet on beets

DANIEL J. VAN ACKERE/America's Test Kitchen via AP Braising beets for 45 minutes turns them tender and brings out maximum flavor.

We sought a streamlined stovetop recipe for beets that maximized their sweet, earthy flavor — with minimal mess.

Braising worked perfectly. We partially submerged the beets in just 11/4 cups of water so that they partially simmered and partially steamed. Halving the beets cut down our cooking time.

In just 45 minutes, the beets were tender and their skins slipped off easily. We reduced the braising liquid and added brown sugar and vinegar to make a glossy glaze. Shallot, toasted almonds, fresh mint and thyme, and a little lemon zest finished the dish.

The beets can be served warm or at room temperature. If serving at room temperature, add the nuts (or seeds, if making the variation with lime and pepitas) and fresh herbs right before serving.

Look for beets that are 2-3 inches in diameter. You can use an 11-inch straight-sided sauté pan in place of the Dutch oven in this recipe.

BRAISED BEETS WITH LEMON AND ALMONDS

Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Servings: 6

11/2 pounds beets, trimmed and halved horizontally

11/4 cups water

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar

1 shallot, sliced thin

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted and chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Place the beets, cut side down, in a single layer in a Dutch oven. Add the water and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and bring to simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until beets are tender and can be easily pierced with paring knife, 45-50 minutes.

Transfer beets to a cutting board to cool slightly. Meanwhile, increase heat to medium-high and reduce cooking liquid, stirring occasionally, until pan is almost dry, 5-6 minutes.

Add the vinegar and sugar, return to boil, and cook, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula, until the spatula leaves a wide trail when dragged through glaze, 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

Once beets are cool enough to handle, rub off skins with paper towels and cut into 1/2-inch wedges. Add the beets, shallot, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to the glaze, and toss to coat.

Transfer to a serving platter, and sprinkle with the almonds, mint and thyme. Serve.

Nutrition information per serving: 137 calories; 56 calories from fat; 6 g fat (0 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 285 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 5 g protein.

Variations to try

Braised beets with lime and pepitas: Omit thyme. Substitute lime zest for lemon zest, toasted pepitas for almonds and cilantro for mint.

Braised beets with orange and walnuts: Substitute orange zest for lemon zest, walnuts for almonds and parsley for mint.