Beets taste like sugar kisses to me, with a little spoonful of dirt on top.
I like beets, love them actually. But they’ve been an acquired taste, for sure. Maybe it was my childhood associations with beets and canned vegetables.
At some point in the history of tables I’ve sat around there was a dish of soggy pickled beets sitting on one. Beets in a dish that came straight out of a can; tasting sour, sweet and a little of garden soil all at the same time.
Like that time I licked the edge of a dirty old copper penny; it tasted salty and metallic, but so mysteriously mouthwatering I was compelled to have another lick.
Beets come in deeply intense colors – magenta, orange and yellow – but Italian heirloom Chioggia beets are exceptionally drop dead gorgeous. They’re unassuming, gnarly and beet-like on the outside, striped liked sweet candy canes on the inside.
It floors me that nature could be so whimsical as to design a root vegetable in the spitting image of a Willy Wonka lollypop.
Once they’re cooked, the colors muddy and fade, so it’s worth eating Chioggia beets raw to get full bang for your buck.
I have a Benriner spiral slicer, a handy gadget that makes lovely thin spirals out of firm-textured vegetables and fruits.You don’t need one. A good old vegetable peeler works just as well. Oxo makes my favorite basic peeler.
Any kind of beet will work for this recipe, but Chioggia beets are becoming more available at grocery stores with good produce sections as well as at farmer’s markets.
- 1 pound Chioggia, orange, yellow or red beets, peeled, about 5 or 6 medium
- Handful fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 - 3 tablespoons best olive oil you have, or pistachio oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup soft, fresh goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons toasted chopped pistachios
- Fresh baby arugula and/or salad greens
- Shave the beets into ribbons with a vegetable peeler, mandoline slicer or spiral slicer. Toss gently on a plate or large bowl with the basil.
- Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, sugar and salt until dissolved and blended.
- Toss the beets with just enough of the dressing to coat lightly; add more dressing and seasoning to taste. Top with goat cheese and pistachios. Serve over arugula or baby greens.