Beet & Barley Bowls with Beet Green Pesto


Healthy Words_ Series

Part 5

The healthy barley, sweet roasted beets, and savoury roasted mushrooms in these vegetarian power bowls are all tossed with a tasty and affordable beet green pesto.

These veg-friendly bowls and this special pesto recipe made with a tiny food processor were the ideal surfaces on which to smother it. These bowls are full, tasty, and plain wonderful thanks to a base of sturdy, protein-rich barley, sweet roasted beets, and savoury roasted mushrooms, all tossed with a waste-nothing pot of beet green pesto.

Beet green pesto is a delicious variation on the traditional Italian pesto sauce that makes use of the usually wasted beet greens. A few leaves of basil and parsley give the pesto a nice herbal brightness and help to mask the overt earthiness that frequently turns people off of beets and beet greens completely. Blanching the greens first removes any uncomfortable bitterness. It doesn't taste bad at all, thanks to a little orange zest, vinegar, and honey.

Swiss chard is the flavor-wise closest substitute for beets with the greens still attached, but you could also use spinach, or even just plain basil for a more traditional pesto if you can't find any. According to my philosophy, you can make pesto out of pretty much any green food.

One can prefer to roast the beets in foil packets with salt & pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. The skins will nearly slide off with minimal effort on your part after an hour (or more or less depending on the size of your beets). Compared to having to peel and chop beets beforehand, this is so much simpler (and less messy). Although we used a combination of red and golden beets, you can use just one colour if you like.

The addition of a richness and umami that would otherwise only be found in meat, is made possible by the mushrooms. In addition to being quicker than frying them on the stovetop (just pop the sheet pan in the oven and get other things done), roasting them until they are almost crispy gives this recipe a genuinely distinctive flavour and texture.

Next: Bibim Guksu (Korean Cold Noodle Salad)

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