Saturday, July 31, 2010

Eating to a Different Beet

Fig.1. Chioggia beets are quite beautiful to look at when raw; when cooked the beets turn pink. When fresh, beet leaves are perfectly edible, eat them in salads or cook them as you would rapini.

A trip to the market these days is truly wonderful. Because of the heat everything is early. The fava beans are aplenty, as are string beans and broad beans, the mere sight of all those zucchini blossoms makes my heart skip a beat, and, if I keep eating them stuffed with cheese and deep fried, my heart might cease to beat altogether. And if all this wasn't euphoric enough, tomatoes are at last beginning to taste the way a tomato should taste.

Lisa and I have been quite busy these days making jam (strawberry, raspberry, ground cherries and blueberry-wild blueberries are just starting to make an appearance. I found some from Abitibi, but according to LCN, the famed wild variety from Lac Saint Jean will be in short supply this year. I think the blueberry producers are just creating demand in order to boost up the price.) We've also been freezing bags upon bags of beans: simply blanch the beans in boiling water for a few minutes, drain, then put into freezer bags.)

I also was surprised to find Chioggia beets at the Birri kiosk. Chioggia beets, named after the coastal town of Chioggia off of the Venetian lagoon, have a very distinctive "candy cane" appearance. The concentric red and white circles will however turn a uniform pink when cooked. You can eat them raw, but their high levels of geosmin (an organic compound) gives the Chioggia beet a strong earthy taste and best if eaten with bread, or drizzled with (a real) balsamic or vino cotto. When cooked they become sweet, cook them the same way you would cook a potato.

Fig.2. Make sure the beets are even and not overlapping.

Fig.3. When cooked properly, the beets will be crispy and slightly chewy on the outside, and tender in the center; the white and red colors will turn a pinkish purple.

Chioggia Beet Chips

Chioggia beets can be baked whole, either wrapped in foil or in a roasting pan, I often add beets whenever I'm roasting a chicken. Slicing the beets will caramelize and crisp up the beets, if you can't find Chioggia beets, regular beets will also work.


Chioggia beets, sliced 1/4" thick
Bush basil--you can use whatever fresh herb you would like.
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 375. Place the sliced beets on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, add your herbs, salt and pepper and toss, making sure they're evenly coated and that there is enough oil coating the cookie sheet. Arrange them on the cookie sheet side by side (make sure none are overlapping) cover tightly with foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. When the beets crisp up, flip them over, re-cover and bake until the other side crisps up as well. Sprinkle with coarse salt just before serving.

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