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Star Ingredient of the Season: Beets

Quite possibly a star ingredient of all four seasons, the beet was not always the superstar vegetable that we know it as today. Only in the last few years have beets have shot to the top of the vegetable chain as diners rediscover how good—and good for you—the root vegetable is. Beneath the tough exterior of the beet root, you will discover a superfood so rich in nutrients and vibrant in color, it puts the star quality in any dish. You may have noticed menu items including beets throughout the seasons, but as beets tends to grow best during the spring months, you will find them at their peak from June through October.

We know beets are good for us, but just how good are they? Aside from being low in calories and containing zero cholesterol, beets and their greens also offer protection against heart disease, stroke, cancer and are even reported to have anti-aging effects. Often found in salads and fresh-pressed juices, beets provide an excellent source of energy and act as a cleansing agent for the liver. You can get a substantial amount from one or two beets and the mild flavor of the vegetable itself makes it a natural addition to sweet or savory dishes. As dining out on a more regular basis has become a way of life, today's top chefs have placed a heavy focus on using superfoods like beets, kale and brussels sprouts as a base for new, innovative dishes.

The red beet soup at Indika is made with coconut, garbanzo, ginger, saffron yogurt and onion sprouts, and served with a paneer cutlet.

Image: Neena Arora

In a Starring Role at: Indika

I consider myself to have a sophisticated palate when it comes to Indian food; I was born in India and grew up on the flavorful, sometimes spicy cuisine. I can confidently recommend plenty of places in Houston to enjoy savory chicken tikka masala or a crispy masala dosa. Food aside, however, there are those few restaurants which also manage to capture the charm of a culture, the allure of a country and in fact create a true dining experience. Anita Jaisinghani, the self-taught chef and owner of Indika (as well as popular West Ave destination Pondicheri), has just done that with Houston staple Indika.

Indika
516 Westheimer Rd.
713-524-2170
indikausa.com

While you may have noticed the eclectic looking eatery driving down the busy Westheimer curve leading into Midtown, the sights and smells inside will truly take you away to mystic India. The romantic dining room is decorated with iridescent drapes in hues of orange and maroon, inviting guests to explore the menu featuring both vegetarian and protein-heavy dishes. A quaint patio and full bar will find guests enjoying a stellar happy hour menu of appetizers and craft cocktails Monday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. It was on an average day enjoying lunch on the patio that I discovered a beet dish that I knew raised the bar for all other beet dishes in Houston.

The red beet soup at Indika is a work of art in the bowl. Stunning in color, this creamy soup is made with red beets, coconut, garbanzo, ginger, and saffron yogurt, making for a combination of fresh flavors. Bold, fragrant and served with a spiced paneer cutlet, it is a feast for the senses. In keeping up with the trending farm-to-table scene in Houston, Jaisinghani manages to create a dish using beets which is not only beautifully presented, but far more dynamic and original than any other I have seen. Pair this soup with a lamb quinoa salad, available as a choice for the soup-and-salad special during lunch, and you'll find yourself enjoying a lunch combination like nowhere else in the city.

Indian food has long been known for spicy meats and curry dishes, but with the ever-evolving food scene in Houston, it is refreshing to see a restaurant featuring fresh, seasonal selections on the menu. Along with other signature menu items like the saffron shrimp and scallops or a dish of lamb vindaloo, served with a variety of specialty naan choices, a meal here will no doubt add a pinch of spice to your life just as it has for the diners who've enjoyed Jaisinghani's cooking at Indika for over a decade.

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