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Cuisine

Beets taste ‘sublime’ when prepared correctly

8/8/13 | By Paul Suplee, CEC PCIII

One of the simple pleasures in life for me is picking beets out of the garden. This amazing vegetable sums up the word ‘summer break’ to me and their taste is nothing short of sublime when prepared correctly.

Our little farm in the backyard has seen better days but these beauties grew like champs. It was a nice surprise and we will not look a gift horse in the mouth. As anyone knows who has grown in their garden, plants and vegetation come and go as they please, not necessarily following any specific rules as to whether they will obey your command to grow and flourish.

In harvesting the few vegetables that we grow, we love beets the most. When they are fresh from the ground, they have a sweet and earthy taste after cooked and we know that the nutritional value is second to only a handful of powerhouse provisions.

We need to dig deeper than the carb/fat/protein profile when looking at the health benefits of beets.  When we eat the beets, utilizing the greens in the arugula blend (optional), we are eating an array of antioxidants that have been shown to help us in our daily battle against the bad things out to get us and our bodies.  As I am no NIH employee, I will let you do your own research on this matter.

All I know is that I can’t wait to eat a roasted beet salad — one of my favorite combinations of beets, bitter greens, sweet dressing and a tart cheese.

Sadly, I must recognize that the summer is quickly fading.  The days are a touch shorter and all of a sudden we are waking up to mornings in the 60s.

At least we have the pleasure of a small harvest before the end of it all. And then it’s back to school.  And I know that the beet salad that I am eating as I write will help me weather any storm that may come my way. Thank you, simple pleasures.

Roasted Beet Salad

Serves 4

6 fresh beets, stems removed

Olive oil, as needed

Salt and pepper, as needed

Baby arugula, as needed

1 cup candied nuts (recipe follows)

1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese

1/2 cup sweet sherry vinaigrette (recipe follows)

1/2 cup pickled onions (recipe follows)

Toss beets, skin-on, in a touch of olive oil and then season liberally with salt and pepper.

Wrap loosely in aluminum foil and, in a 400°F oven, roast until a knife passes through easily, approximately 45 minutes to an hour and a quarter, depending on your oven.

Let beets cool in the foil and then peel them. I recommend wearing gloves for this since fresh beets will stain everyone and everything within 30 feet.

When you are ready to assemble the salad, toss the arugula in a small amount of dressing and put the beets on the plate as the base.

Add the gorgonzola, nuts and onions and then top off with shingled slices of beets

Candied Nuts

Makes 2 cups

2 cups walnuts, whole

2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Splash of water

Pinch of cinnamon

Pinch of salt

The water is key here. It is important to use only enough water to dissolve the confectioner’s sugar and coat the walnuts.

Toss the ingredients together and place on a sheet pan sprayed with pan coating.

Bake for 5 minutes at 350°F and remove from oven.

Toss well with a spatula and place back in oven.

Bake for 4 minute intervals, removing to toss, until nuts are darkened. They will still be soft. They will not crisp up until they are cooled.

Sweet Sherry Vinaigrette

Makes 2 cups

1/2 cup sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons sugar

6 fresh basil leaves

1 roasted garlic clove

1 1/4 cups grapeseed oil

Salt and pepper, as needed

Combine everything up to, but not including, the oil in a tall container. A small diameter works best if you are using an immersion blender.

Stick your immersion blender (stick blender) in the mixture and blend well.

With the blender running, slowly drizzle in the oil until the dressing has emulsified.

Season to taste.

Pickled Onions

Yields about 2 cups

1 cup red vinegar

1 sprig fresh thyme

1/2 cup sugar

1 large red onion

Salt and pepper to taste

Julienne the onion and place in a sieve. Run cold water over the onion as this will remove some of the gases that make the onion so unpleasant.

Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil in a saucepan and remove immediately.

Put the onions in a bowl and pour the hot pickling goo on top.

Place in the refrigerator, uncovered until cool. Cover and let sit for at least 4 hours before using.  These will last for up to 7 days.

— Paul G. Suplee is a certified executive chef and ProChef certified Level-3. He is a writer and culinary instructor. Find his ePortfolio at www.heartofakitchen.com.

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