018: Beets

I’ve used beets a couple times now, and so far the results have been pretty disappointing. I like beets. They have a really interesting texture, both firm and tender. They’ve also got a unique flavor. I want to learn how to use them, but they never come out quite right. Hopefully, this batch of recipes turns up something nice.

Menu (Serves 3)
Beet Hummus with Roasted Beet Chips
Gold and Chioggia Beet Salad
Fettuccine in Beet Ragu
Beet Ice Cream with Chocolate Beet Trio

Before you start cooking, roast the beets. Four red beets, and one each of chioggia and gold beets. Cut the tops off, retain the taproot, and wrap them in foil. Cook them at 425 in the oven for about an hour. A fork should pierce easily. When they’ve cooled a little, rinse them in cold water and rub the skin vigorously. It’ll peel away without much trouble, but you can use a vegetable peeler or just your fingers to get it off.

Gold and Chioggia Beet Salad
1 roasted gold beet
-1 roasted chioggia beet
-2T garlic chives
-red wine vinegar

Dice the beets small. Mince the garlic chives. Mix the beets and chives in a bowl, and toss with salt and vinegar to taste.

Beet Hummus

-1 roasted red beet
-1 can garbanzo beans
-4 cloves garlic
-1 lemon
-1.5T tahini
-1t tabasco
-1T parsley
-1/4c olive oil

Throw all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse it together. Adjust the proportions; I needed a little more olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, and salt.

Roasted Beet Chips
-1 chioggia beet
-1 gold beet
-olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350.
Peel the beets. Cut off the stems, cut the beets in half lengthwise if you wish, then slice them as thinly as possible. Get a mandoline slicer. Somebody get me a mandoline slicer!

These are chioggia beets. You can see the same ringed structure in any given beet, but it’s usually hidden for the most part by their uniform color.
Toss the beet chips in a bowl with some olive oil. Get them covered, then spread them out on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them. Pull them off the tray and remove them to a drying rack as they lighten and crisp up.

Fettuccine in Beet Ragu
-olive oil
-2 beets (I used one roasted, one raw; this leaves 2 roasted for the ice cream)
-1 carrot
-1 onion
-3 cloves garlic
-1 rib of celery
-2c stock
-1.5T tomato paste
-1 lb stew beef
-1 lb fettuccine
-3T red wine
-2T heavy cream
-1/2t dried red pepper
-1/2t dill

Skin the beets and carrot. Dice the carrot, onion, beet, celery. Cut the stew meat into small pieces. Dice the garlic. Heat some oil in a large pan. Throw in all the ingredients mentioned. Saute until the meat is browned and the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste and dill, coat the ingredients, then add the wine. Let it cook into the saute, then add stock to cover. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cover.

After half an hour, uncover the pan. Stir the sauce, refresh the stock to cover again. Continue with this process over 3 hours, stirring and keeping the meat covered in liquid to braise. When it’s the last half hour, add the cream, red pepper, salt and pepper, and stir. Let it reduce down to a thick sauce. Cook the fettuccine, and serve with the sauce, minced parsley, and some grated parmesan.

Beet Ice Cream and Chocolate Beet Trio
2 roasted red beets
-1 red beet
-1 gold beet
-1 chioggia beet
-1 dark chocolate bar
-3T candied ginger, diced small
-2c milk
-1 1/4c heavy cream
-4t cornstarch
-3/4 cup sugar
-1/2t salt
-zest and juice of 1 orange
-3T cream cheese

Puree the beets in a blender. Pour it into a strainer over a bowl, and squish it through. There’s nothing to strain out, but this’ll get it smoother. Return them to the blender. Make a slurry from the cornstarch and 1/4c of milk. Whisk together the cream, remaining milk, sugar, and salt. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan. Add the zest and juice, cook for a few minutes, then add the slurry. Stir it together, still at a boil, until it begins to thicken.
Put the cream cheese in a bowl, and whisk 1/4c of the hot milk into it until it’s smooth. Add this, and the remaining milk to the pureed beets. Blend it together. Chill in the fridge. When it’s cold, add it to the ice cream maker. As the ice cream begins to thicken, sprinkle the ginger in. When the ice cream is thick and semi-solid, pour it into a container and put it in the freezer to set.

Skin the beets. Dice them into cubes about the size of fancy chocolates. Put the beets in a heavy pot with 2c water, 1c sugar. Cook them at a low simmer until tender. Cook the red beets in a second batch, in the same pot, so the other beets won’t turn red.
Make a double boiler with a pot filled with 2 inches or so of water, and a heat-safe bowl resting in the mouth of the pot, with the bottom of the bowl not touching the water. Heat to a boil, and break the chocolate bar into the bowl. Drizzle with a teaspoon of vegetable oil for a glossy sheen. Melt the chocolate, stirring to break it up faster and just to really make sure it doesn’t scorch.
Prepare a baking sheet with some wax or parchment paper, with lines dividing it into three sections: gold, chioggia, red. When the chocolate is fully melted, dip the beet cubes into it, leaving some space on one side. This is the side you rest the cube on, so as to keep a tidy chocolate coating that’s not stuck to the sheet. Place the cubes in their corresponding section.

Serve a small scoop of ice cream with one of each beet chocolate.


Blech. So, basically, only two dishes or parts of dishes worked. The pasta and the hummus. Everything else was terribly wrong in one way or another. Let’s run through.

Hummus and Chips: As I said, the hummus was good. I’ve been eating leftovers with pitas for the past couple days. It’s an interesting color, the parsley adds black flecks to it that look earthy and appealing. The flavor is good, with the beet flavor subtly there. It’s kind of sour, which is nice. The texture is a little thick; maybe a bit stiff, but it’s not a pain to eat, and feels nice in the mouth. The chips, on the other hand, were mostly crummy. Some of them crisped nicely, most of them were just shriveled and floppy. I blame my lack of a mandoline. I think if they had all been a uniform thickness, I could have made them work. As it was, they all cooked at different rates and I got a little impatient, worried that giving them too much time to sit would mess them up somehow. Some baked onto the sheet, some were kind of juicy and slimy, and only about 10% of them were the way I wanted. I ended up making an emergency batch of pita chips to go with the hummus, which was much better.

Salad: The idea here was that I would try to make the failed garlic and beet salad from Garlic. I substituted garlic chives, because I’d been seeing them at Berkeley Bowl and wanted to see what they were like. They’re kind of cool! But, they don’t really impart garlic flavor at all. They just taste like it if you happen to eat a piece. I also dressed the salad pretty lightly. This resulted in basically a bowl of cold beets with very little flavoring. I wanted to use gold and chioggia only so as to avoid an entire menu of pink food. I think it looked okay, if nothing else, and pretty much there was nothing else. A failure in both taste and concept.

Pasta: I really liked the pasta. So did everyone else. It was genuinely good. The meat cooked down well, so that it fell apart in the mouth, the sauce was creamy, sweet and savory, with a perfect spiciness. The fettuccine, which was from a package, was less impressive than homemade, but given the disaster that was everything else, it’s probably better I didn’t try making my own. The beets added their texture, a balanced beet flavor, a nice rich color. I would definitely make this again. What this was supposed to be was a kind of borscht-like pasta sauce. I actually don’t know if I’ve ever had borscht, so I really have no idea if this is anything like it, flavor-wise.

Ice Cream and Chocolates: The ice cream didn’t set, at all. I put it in the mixer, and it ran for about an hour, and it was still liquid, so I put the whole thing in the freezer and hoped it would solidify. Obviously, by dessert time, it hadn’t. The next day, it had solidified, but into a rock instead of into a bowl of ice cream. I didn’t use the cream cheese, both because I didn’t have any, and because I didn’t think it was necessary. I still don’t think it was, but something clearly went wrong. The ice cream mixture itself was DELICIOUS. I was really disappointed that it didn’t come out right. The flavor was really, really great. Nice and sweet, with mild beet flavor, orange tartness, and if it had come together, the crystallized ginger would have gone well with it. Paired with the melty liquid, the ginger was really overpowering, but I think if it was embedded in ice cream it would work.

As for the beet chocolates, I still think they could work. They definitely didn’t when I made them, but I have faith in the concept. The liquid I boiled them in didn’t have enough sugar, and I should have cooked them much lower than I did, to allow for a longer steep in the syrup. I had a couple test ones when I was cooking, and I thought they were okay, but they matured in the fridge and began tasting a lot more like watery beets. This happened with the salad, as well. Originally, the salad tasted nice and balanced, but when I served it it was bland.
The beets were, at best, an interesting thing to eat with the chocolate. They never became part of the chocolate, never imparted anything positive. It was just weird and somewhat acceptable, and “oh well this is unusual.” We now have a tupperware in the fridge with like twenty leftover ones, and nobody is going to eat them. They’re gross.

So, beets knocked me down yet again. I just really don’t know what to do with them, for the most part. They’re a tough vegetable, especially when you’re like me and want to do something creative with every dish. There’s several proven beet dishes I would have gotten much better results with, but I guess that’s not really the point of the blog. It always sucks when the experiments fail so thoroughly, though. And that’s what tends to happen when I use beets. We’ll see how I handle them next year. This coming week I’m praying for a victory, partly to recover from this menu, but mostly so I don’t waste a bunch of money!

Next Week: Mushrooms

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