Farmers market meets favorite takeout in this recipe for Vegan Beet Fried Rice. It’s perfect for beet lovers.
Last year, in the springtime, I had a conversation with a friend that went something like this: “I only eat fried rice if I make it. I never order it out.” Then I met BDN writer Kathleen Pierce for lunch at Empire Chinese Kitchen in Portland and saw a duck fried rice on the menu that I had to try.
Honestly, I broke my personal rules because I love duck, which isn’t something I ever make at home.
And I am so glad I did. That fried rice was richly seasoned and filled with veggies and duck. Practically addictive, I ate as much as I could and then brought the rest home, where both my kids tried it. And ultimately, my daughter confiscated it as her own.
As I started working on the recipe for this week’s column, I thought of that fried rice. It broke the rules of what fried rice typically is. Instead of a slightly greasy blend of white onions and meat bits, it was a hearty dish with duck, ginger, green beans and beansprouts. It had the essence of traditional American Chinese restaurant fried rice but with a more sophisticated feel to it.
This fried rice also breaks the rules. It’s vegan — no meat or meat products are in this — and it’s primarily made with veggies from the farmers market. And speaking of veggies, it has a lot. Particularly a lot of beets.
Mmm … beets.
But let’s be clear: If you hate beets, this recipe isn’t going to convert you into a beet lover. Really: it’s not for you. (Might I recommend my Farmer’s Market Fried Rice recipe instead?)
If you do love beets though, this is a real treat … a completely different way of enjoying them with their flavor enhanced and altered with new flavors.. Try this. Love it. My kids and I do.
This recipe is for those of us who love the earthy sweetness of beets, who appreciate both the firm, meaty portions, and the earthy leaves. It’s for those of us who grew up sprinkling sea salt on freshly boiled rounds of beets, and who fell for the intense flavor and sweetness of roasted beets. And it’s for us who are tempted by the stunning, brilliant pink color and the unique texture.
Beets, their stems and leaves are sauteed with scallions, garlic and a hint of salt and pepper, until they’re all tender. Then sesame oil and rice are added, and fried up a bit. Finally, the whole thing simmers with soy sauce for a bold, unexpected dish that’s unlike the fried rices of your corner Chinese joint.
Though this rice has the flavors what you’d expect from fried rice — namely nutty sesame oil, and the pungent robust flavor of salty soy sauce — they are subtle and secondary to the bold beets. It’s summer meets comfort food. Farmers market meets classic takeout.
And it’s divine.
Now, a few more things you should know: The vegetable to rice ratio is high. There are tons of veggies in this and, by comparison, less rice. That’s deliberate. The recipe celebrates summer’s freshest produce. Head to the farmers market, and get your ingredients. Pull out leftover rice (or, in a pinch, pick some up from your local Chinese restaurant for a few dollars), and make this. You could also make this with other grains … perhaps some quinoa?
It’s worth it.
Speaking of farmers markets, cucumbers, Swiss chard, many varieties of kale and radishes and beets are all in season. So are scallions and early onions. It’s a good time to visit your local farmers market. Last weekend, at the Bangor Farmers’ Market, I filled my market bag high with all sorts of veggies from the farmers whose familiar faces make going every week extra special. Hope to see you there this weekend.
- 4 beets, with greens (about 2 to 2½ inches in diameter), rinsed in cool water
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped (use both white and green parts)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 3 cups leftover cooked rice
- ½ cup low-sodium soy sauce
- Separate the beets from the greens. Dice the beets (about ¼-inch dice). Set aside in a large bowl. Separate the beet greens from the stems and set aside. Chop the stems and add to the bowl with the beets. Add the chopped scallions to the bowl, and the minced garlic.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan with a lid set over medium heat. (Mine is about 15-inches in diameter, and has a 6-quart capacity. A wok would work as well.) Add the beet mixture to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beets are tender -- about 10-12 minutes.
- While the beets are cooking, chop the beet greens. When the beets are tender, add to the pan and cover again. Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until wilted. Stir to combine.
- Push the veggies to one side of the pan. Add the sesame oil, and then the rice. Toss together and let fry slightly, then combine with the veggies. Drizzle with soy sauce and stir to combine.
- Leaving the pan uncovered, cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates.