Spicy Sauteed Beets

This Indian-cuisine-inspired recipe takes about 30-35 minutes to make, it's vegetarian-friendly and it's truly unusual. Once you make it, you'll never look at the humble beet in the same way again.

And be warned: this dish is spicy! I'll share a recipe modification below for readers who prefer a milder version.

Spicy Sauteed Beets
(inspired by the Ahaar blog)

2 Tablespoons oil
4-6 medium uncooked beets, peeled and diced into small cubes
2 dried chili peppers (or 3/4 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes)
1 teaspoon (whole) mustard seeds
1 pinch asafoetida (optional, see below)
3-4 curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup water, roughly

1) Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add mustard seeds, chili peppers (or hot pepper flakes), curry leaves and optional asafoetida, and lightly brown the spices on medium high heat for 3-4 minutes.

2) Add the diced beets, turmeric, cayenne pepper and 1 cup of water. Combine everything well, bring to a boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the beets are tender yet firm to the bite and the water is mostly cooked away (if the liquid starts to cook away before the beets are done to your liking, feel free to add some extra water). Serve over rice.

Serves 3 as an entree, serves 4-5 as a side dish.

Recipe notes:
1) I'm sure readers unfamiliar with Indian cuisine are wondering what in the world is asafoetida. For me, it is the butt of an endless supply of sophomoric jokes here at Casual Kitchen. For everyone else, it is a spice common to many Indian dishes. Asafoetida can be well-near impossible to find in a regular grocery store, but any Indian specialty foods store will carry it.

Note also that asafoetida powder (sometimes spelled asafetida) has a strange and downright unpleasant smell. Do not be afraid. When used (sparingly) in recipes, it imparts an aroma and flavor somewhat like onions, leeks or garlic. If you can't find this spice in your community, you can either replace it with a pinch of garlic powder or onion powder or you can omit it altogether.

2) And one more thing about asafoetida: Rumor has it that this powder helps reduce flatulence. Not only will this spice be an unusual addition to your spice rack, it may add meaningfully to the bliss in your household.

3) You are also unlikely to find whole mustard seeds and whole curry leaves in the typical American grocery store. Again, any Indian specialty foods store will carry them. If you are looking for a reason to do some culinary exploring in your community, this easy recipe will give you all the excuse you need!

4) Finally, if you want a milder version of this recipe, use just one dried chili pepper (or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes) and also cut the 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper in half.

Related Posts:
Red Lentils and Rice: Two Cooking Lessons From A Cheap and Easy Dish
Curried Pork With Apples
11 Really Easy Rice Side Dishes
How to Tell if a Recipe is Worth Cooking With Five Easy Questions

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Janet C. said...

yum!!! This one is going in the "must try" category!!

btw, your readers might be interested to know that at least on the west coast most East Indians (including store proprietors) know aseotafida (or however you spell it) as "hing" (Rhymes with "ring"). So if you are having trouble finding it in the store, try asking for it by that name. Buy the smallest container available and it will last forever. Just a small pinch will do it for most Indian restaurants....

Joanne said...

So I'm on the fence about beets after a rather traumatic experience I had with them when I was younger. I think I need to give them another go though. Because they are just too pretty to avoid forever. Sounds like a great recipe.

Daniel said...

Janet, thanks for the positive vibes and for the extra context. And yes, I can vouch that a small container WILL last forever. :)

Hi Joanne, funny you say that--Laura also has disliked beets since childhood, but she really loves this recipe. I encourage you to give it a try. Thanks for your comment.