Dining

Magic Ingredient: Beets

Catch these autumn jewels.

October 2008

Unlike most vegetables, beets actually thrive in cool weather. When the temps range from 55 to 80 degrees, beets are happy—which is why they're popping up at farmers' markets now.

Ryan Morris, owner of the family-run Country Roots Farm in Pueblo, explains why temperature, not season, counts for beets. "In cold weather, starches convert to sugar," he says. "In warm weather, the sugars convert to starch."

In addition to planting a red variety with pink rings known as Bull's Blood, Morris grows an all-white beet called Blankoma, golden beets, an heirloom yellow beet, and Chioggia, which has a reddish-pink skin and white flesh marked by red rings. Darker red varieties tend to have the richest and earthiest beet flavor, but lighter kinds have one irresistible quality: They're non-staining.

To minimize the mess when cooking (and to preserve nutrients and color), leave about an inch of stem when cutting off the greens. The greens are just as nutritious as the beet itself and can be simmered in salted water or quickly sautéed. After the beets cool, peel and use them in this modern take on carpaccio from Bradford Heap, chef-owner of Colterra in Niwot.

RECIPE: Roasted Local Red and Golden Beet Carpaccio

  • 2–3 medium red beets
  • 2–3 medium golden beets
  • vegetable oil for coating beets
  • 4 blood oranges
  • ¼ cup champagne vinegar
  • 2–3 ounces Haystack Mountain goat cheese, crumbled
  • 6 picholine olives, pitted
  • 1 French baguette
  • handful of arugula, washed and dried well
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Begin by washing the beets and removing leafy tops. Lightly coat the beets in a small amount of oil. Roast in a preheated 350° oven for about an hour. (Cooking time differs depending on size of beet and type of oven.) Once the beets are tender but not mushy, set aside to cool.

 

Juice two of the blood oranges and strain out the seeds. Mix with champagne vinegar and reduce by half in a stainless-steel pan until the liquid thickens into syrup, being careful not to over-reduce or burn. Set syrup aside and allow to cool. Take remaining blood oranges and use a serrated knife to remove the skin, exposing segments of the orange. Carefully remove segments using the knife and set aside. Once the beets have cooled, remove the skin. Cut into ⅛-inch slices, keeping red and golden beets separate. In two small bowls, gently mix the red beets with 1 tablespoon syrup and the golden beets with another 1 tablespoon syrup; reserve remaining syrup.

Arrange coated beets on a serving plate in a decorative design, alternating red and golden. Top with orange segments, goat cheese, and pitted olives. Dress arugula lightly in leftover syrup. Place on the center of the plate. Slice the baguette on the bias into ¼-inch pieces. Toast and brush lightly with extra virgin olive oil. Arrange around plate and serve.

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