icelandic eats | seared beet steak with skyr

icelandic eats | seared beet steak with skyr

Beet is one of those vegetables that one either loves or loathes.

Quite a few fussy eaters would agree on the dirt-like taste that the beet has, but it all comes down to how the root is cooked or served.

I personally love the ruby red root veg. And, surprise surprise, beets were actually widely used in my grandparents’ cuisine, according to my dad. I just recently learnt their name in the dialect form, and it weirdly reminds me of some kind of slavic origins. Eating beets somehow gives me a sense of reattachment to my roots – oh, how may bad puns could I play with that phrase. But I think I’ll better just leave those behind.

beet roots in a dark space

Anyways, bad jokes aside. Beets are awesome for the body. They are a true mineral powerhouse: iron, potassium, vitamin C, copper – just to name a few. The beet is also full of antioxidants, which you may guess from the bold, deep red color, and also is rich in dietary fiber. You may have to watch your intake of said root veg if you have to be careful with carbohydrates. In fact, an average beet is way richer in carbs than other vegetables.

I’ve listed down below a few of the benefits that beets have, which I learnt from this article:

• lowers blood pressure, thanks to a compound that promotes blood vessels relaxation and dilatation

• helps with liver detoxification: the dietary fiber (pectin) helps flushing out toxins

• prevents anemia, because they’re high in iron and vitamin C as well, which contributes to absorbing the mineral. the vitamin C also helps fighting cold outbreaks

• improves heart health and prevents cancer. The fiber in the beets helps battling cholesterol, and also a compound called betain plays a fundamental role in the cardiovascular health

• boosts energy levels and brain health

beet greens closeup

Now, if I were a picky eater, I would think twice before refusing to eat such a superfood. People often spend tons of money on packages of pulverised food believed to be the healthiest to eat. I’m talking trendy superfoods like raw cacao, matcha, or other tropical plants. These surely have health benefits, but definitely they do not do the planet any good. I mean, if you live in Japan and have a matcha plantation down the road, go for it! But otherwise, most of the times the plant supplements we take have travelled overseas to reach the shelves where we pick them from.

I’m not demonising the kingdom of superfoods. I am the first that stares at the superfood section at my local health food store, trying to not pick yet another fancy good. Or that gal that checks every single picture of rainbow superfood smoothie bowls on instagram. But the more I share on this space, and the more I learn about nutrition in order to give you quality content, the more my attention naturally turns to what I have around.

beet stems and beet interior close up

Following a diet that relies mostly on whole foods, plantbased if possible, is the best way to ensure you get enough nutrients. Writing this blog made me realise how many possibilities food can offer, and how beautiful and satisfying eating simple can be. Not that I used to eat differently in the past. I’ve always eaten pretty healthy and balanced. The only period when I messed up with my nutrition was when I was dealing with an ED.

That being said, I understand that beets may not be for everyone, taste-wise. I’d say beet is one of those vegetables that you can learn to love as a grown-up, but taking baby steps towards the goal. I mean, if you’ve never had a beet in your whole life, and start with something that has a very strong beet flavor, then you may think it isn’t worth it.

beet slices/steaks

Same goes for the way you approach and cook/prepare a new vegetable. There are tons of different ways to serve beets, but they’re not created equal. And I speak from experience. Before switching to whole, raw beets, I used to buy pre-roasted beets at the farmers market. Just whole roasted beets, skin on. That was after I overcame the idea of mushy, sad and staining things I had regarding the red roots. Those were the steamed and vacuum-packaged beets I first tried from the supermarket.

Definitely cooking your own is the way to go. Not only you’ll have full control over the seasonings, but you’ll also be able to tweak the cooking process to your own likings. Say you like more of a crunchy bite to them? Reduce roasting time. A fan of super tender vegetables? Pre-steam beets for a few minutes, toss with seasonings and bake the whole root wrapped in foil until desired consistency.

cooked beet steaks in a cast iron skillet

For this recipes I kept everything pretty simple. Almost stupidly simple, to the point I shouldn’t really say that this is an actual recipe. You’ll only need beets, some skyr and olive oil, plus flaky salt and pepper to season. And a cast iron skillet to sear the beet steaks.

I shopped for organic beets, so I just scrubbed them well, washed and used the whole root, skin on. Yay vitamins!

detail of cooked beet steaks

Shooting this dish was one of the most satisfying things I’ve done in a while. I mean don’t the steaks look just beautiful? Almost jewel-like. I could stare at the dissolving salt crystals and the deep red circles for, like, ages!

But don’t forget to top these steaks with a nice dollop of skyr. Skyr is an Icelandic dairy product that can be used just like greek yogurt, although I find it to be a little more tart. It also has more protein than greek yogurt, and the tartness goes really well with the beet steaks’ subtle sweetness.

beet steaks garnished with skyr

The earthy flavor and crunch of the beet steaks, together with the creamy tartness of skyr, suggested me an Icelandic tablescape. I tried to bring some of the qualities of the extreme natural phenomena land into the pictures themselves, hence the deep and dark tones of the ensemble and the almost raw and volcanic texture of the plate and background.

Back to the hero now, aka the food.

If you’re into sour things, and you’ve never tried skyr, then you might discover a new food obsession. The first time I tried it was in Riga, Latvia. I remember staring at the dairy/yogurt section of a fridge where everything was labeled either in Russian or Latvian. I picked the least weird tub I could find, basically the one where the ingredient list was short enough to make me think it was rather natural. Pro tip: always learn how the world “sugar” is spelled in different languages.

taste testing beet slices

Pairing the new dairy product I got with some of the juicy berries from the farmers market right outside the store was the second best decision of the day. The first was actually choosing that package over the others. I was obsessed. Googling for the translation, I learnt that skyr was actually super popular as a greek yogurt counterpart or substitute, and that it originated in Iceland, where it is technically cheese.

If you live in the US, chances are that skyr is no more a new thing. But Italy is always a tad late and the Icelandic yogurt is just popping up here and there. Cultured cashew cream would be a nice swap for that, if you’re vegan. Or any plantbased yogurt that’s tart and thick.

If you try a vegan alternative, let me know!

We can share cooking tips over on instagram, I’d love to. You can also find me on pinterestbloglovin’ and food52. let’s be friends!

Stay tuned for the next travel eats post! Until then,

much love!
x chiara

beet tops

beet slices and whole beet on set

seared beet steaks with skyr
prep time
5 mins
cook time
10 mins
total time
15 mins
 

earthy, crunchy and thick beet slices get seared in a hot cast iron pan, and when they've happily sizzled away and developed a nice char, off to the serving plate they go. a generous helping of peppery skyr on top, and you're all set for a taste of iceland!

course: appetizer, side dish
Keyword: beet, beets, iceland, icelandic food, skyr
servings: 4 people
ingredient list
  • 4 medium organic beets, skin on
  • a few dollops natural skyr
  • 1,5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • a pinch flaky salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
directions
chop and sear the beets.
  1. chop off ends and tops from the beets, saving the greens for another dish. slice each beet into three to four thick rounds or steaks.

    heat a large cast iron skillet until very hot. pour 1 tbsp oil, swirl around the pan to coat and place beet steaks inside.

    let the vegetables sear and sizzle five minutes per side. they will be hot in the inside but still crunchy to the bite. 

season and serve.
  1. mix skyr with remaining oil, some salt and pepper.

    season the seared beet steaks with flaky salt and freshly cracked black pepper. 

    serve the beets still hot with a generous helping of skyr and some extra pepper.

notes

for a vegan version, you can use cultured cashew cream or any plantbased yogurt that has a tart and thick mouthful in place of skyr. 

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