Vegetables in oil are an important part of the Italian gastronomic tradition and considered one of the oldest techniques that has been around for many centuries. Growing up in Italy and the US, my family, for as long as I can remember, always prepared seasonal vegetables “Sott’olio,” which literally means, “under oil.” It is a way to preserve vegetables and enjoy them throughout the year. My family usually makes string beans, mushrooms and eggplant sott’olio and I love every single one! They are fantastic with toasted homemade rustic Italian bread, as an appetizer along with salumi (cured meats such as prosciutto), or, as I like to do, take a fork and just simply eating it straight out of the glass jar!
According to my mom, in the past, when agricultural techniques were much less advanced than today, frosts, hailstorms and sudden weather occurrences often ruined entire crops, leaving peasant families without food. Preserving them in that manner was, therefore a way to make the most of these precious ingredients from the garden and store them to be enjoyed throughout the year. Today, they are considered more of a delicacy … rightfully so!
And to top it all off, with this recipe, you have a glass jar filled with beneficial goodness!!
In the world of Nutrigenomics…
Beets preserved in extra virgin olive oil retain all the beneficial properties that both, the olive oil and beets possess. Beets contain carotenoids, phenolics, and flavonoids, a diverse group of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) known to have powerful antioxidant properties with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits. They are also rich in dietary fiber, B vitamins, and minerals such as potassium, sodium, calcium, iron, and phosphorus.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a major component of the Mediterranean diet and for good reason. It has an extensive list of health benefits. It’s bioactive compounds, polyphenols, oleic acid, and phytosterols have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Many studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants, which help fight free radicals that cause cellular damage, has anti-inflammatory properties, supports the cardiovascular system, and has been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, improve bone health and assist in weight loss, just to name a few.
Garlic contains a bioactive compound called Allicin, which is released when you chop, crush, or chew raw garlic, and has been shown to lower inflammation, boost your immune system, reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol, detoxify heavy metals, as well as having anticancer activity.
Parsley is a rich source of bioactive compounds such as carotenoids, phenols, and flavonoids. Studies have shown that parsley is anti-inflammatory, aids in digestion, boosts your immune system and improves bones health, to name a few. It is also a rich source of vitamins C, A, K, B12, and folic acid.
Oregano, comes from a healing and aromatic plant that has been known since ancient times and it rich in bioactive compounds such as flavonoids, phenol, and flavanones. It has been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, and antioxidant properties.
Red chili pepper contains a bioactive compound called capsaicin, which has been examined extensively. It has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-obesity health properties, as well as being cardio-protective.
For this recipe ingredients are listed with no quantities with the exception of lemon juice. It all depends on the number of beets you have and your desired amount for each of the other ingredients. Also, please remember to use latex gloves as your hands will turn red!
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
Fresh parsley to taste, chopped
Garlic to taste, chopped
Oregano to taste
Crushed red pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
Wash beets well, cut both ends and use a peeler to remove the skin. Slice beets into 1/4-inch thick rounds and set aside.
In a large pot mix 4 cups of water and 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar. Use enough liquid mixture to cover the sliced beets. Bring to a boil and add sliced beets. Cook for 4 minutes then drain and set aside to cool.
Prepare a large baking sheet lined with a dish cloth. Place beets on the dish cloth, cover with another dish cloth and set aside to dry for at least 12 hours.
Cut beets into your desired shape (sticks, cubes, or leave them round) and place in a large mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, parsley, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt and some olive oil and mix well. Place the mixed beets in a glass jar and cover completely with extra virgin olive oil. Place the lid on the jar and close tightly. Store in a cool, dark place.
For best results store for one week before opening the jar. Keep refrigerated once opened.
I’ve eaten them straight out of the bowl without preserving them and they are delicious!