A few weeks ago, my friend Jill, a wonderful (non-blogging!) cheerleader of my food experiments, sent me an message raving about a lovely beet appetizer she had. She described the dish in detail, recalling the flavors she detected, and challenged me to recreate it.
Since I am not one to turn down a challenge, I marched out to buy myself some beets. I’ve tasted them before, but had never seen them in their uncooked state until that encounter at the grocery store. And what a monstrosity they were! Unnaturally bright green & red leaves, tentrils-like wisps, and excuse me, are those tails I see? I was a bit freaked out. To make matters worse, the lovely* employees of Food Emporium placed them all the way at the top, and as I reached up to grab a bunch, I was attacked by parade of falling vegetation and an unpleasant wet spray of condensation! Let’s just say I was not off to a good start.
The beets then proceeded to stain my shirt, fingers, knife, and cutting board a stage-blood red. I ran around screaming to Brian “Look…bloooooood” (Ok, so that part was kind of fun). And they took FOREVER to cook! For someone with my impatience, “boiling for one hour” is not something that’s considered fun. But in the end…I conquered the beets. I mean, I BEAT the BEETS! They turned from beast to beauty – and a delicious beauty it is. Best of all, I stand here alive to chronicle the adventure and recipe.
- 3-4 medium sized beets
- Agave Nectar (or sugar)
- Dried Basil (optional)
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Herbed Cheese (*I had a master plan to make my own from cream cheese, sour cream, chives, and parsley, but the Alouette Garlic & Herbs Spread caught my eye, and upon finding out that it had LESS fat and calories than the light cream cheese, I gave in to my laziness and picked it up. It didn’t disappoint, but I would like to try making it from scratch next time though)
- Wash the beets, remove the leafy greens, peel them, and slice them into around 1/4 inch.
- Divide the beets in 2 piles.
- Boil half of the beets in water sweetened with Agave Nectar for 30-40 min (shh…I microwaved for 15 min instead to save some time – it worked!). They should be tender when forked and slightly sweet.
- Toss the other half in a vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar, honey, olive oil, salt & pepper, and basil. Roast in the oven at 350 for about 40 min, turning it over once halfway through.
- Toss the Arugula in a the same vinaigrette until well dispersed. Set aside.
- After the beets are cooked comes the fun part – Assembly! Prepare a bed of Arugula. Layer on boiled beets, leaving some greens peeping out. With a cake piper (or you can make one by cutting a small hole in a ziploc bag!), pipe the herbed cheese on top of the beets. Now, take the roasted, slightly crispy beet chips and wedge them around the cheese.
- And there you have it! A beautiful beet flower that I present to you, my wonderful readers!
Now for the possible variations:
- Instead of the cream cheese, try feta, goat, or another creamy cheese with bite. Or use mascarpone or ricotta for the texture, but season well with some salty herby flavor.
- I suspect this can also be made with sweet potatoes or taro.
- I was pleasantly surprised when some of my roasted beets came out tasting like terra chips! Had I known, I would’ve used a mandoline to slice them even thinner for more crisp.
- Adding some crushed walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts will add another layer of nutty satisfaction.
- Instead of honey, try maple syrup (also rich in nutrients).