When I turned fifteen, I was in a girl band.
Did I say girl band?
What I meant to say was: when I turned fifteen, I joined an all-girls singing and dancing group where we belted out songs about jazz, danced in unsynchronized circles, and attempted to start a trend of crushed velvet belly shirts.
Needless to say, you have not seen us perform on Oprah.
One thing I took away from this experience, other than a perfect post-braces smile, was an aversion to anything that resembled the word beat. It is over ten years later, and when Gloria Estefan’s Turn the Beat Around comes blaring through the radio–I still look for the nearest sharp tool to cut off my ears.
Last week I received a letter in the mail from my Grandma–who we call Bea Bea. She was wishing me luck on all of my cooking adventures and had included a recipe she found in the newspaper for roasted beets.
As I read through the article, I could suddenly hear that annoying repetitive melody drift through my head. When I opened my eyes, I was standing in the produce section at Whole Foods holding a vibrant magenta beet whose dizzying spirals nearly spun me into a display of lentils.
These are Chiogga Beets.
Chiogga beets are an heirloom variety of beets that are characterized by their fuchsia skin and white stripes. They’re called Chiogga beets because they originated in the Italian coastal town of Chioggia, which is near Venice.
Apparently humans like to travel to Europe, and vegetables like to vacation in the States.
These beets roast just like regular ones, but have a flavor that is a bit sweeter.
This simple recipe involves three of my favorite cooking tricks:
- Flavor balancing
- Color pairing
If you learn even one of these, you can take the technique and use it in countless other recipes subbing in your favorite ingredients.
*Full recipe at the bottom*
Roasting is a cooking method that enhances flavor through caramelization. For example, roasting carrots will make them sweeter and give them a rich flavor. The same is true with beets. You can roast them plain with olive oil and salt, or amplify their flavor with citrus and herbs like rosemary and orange–a trick I learned from my dad.
Once you understand the principles of flavor balancing, your homemade vinaigrette options are endless. Light, oil-based dressings are balanced by these flavors: richness, acidity, sweetness, and saltiness. By using different types of vinegar (balsamic, white balsamic, apple cider vinegar) and citrus (orange, lemon, lime) for the acidity and pairing them with different forms of sweetness (honey, agave, brown sugar) you can create a thousand flavor combinations.
Any crumbly cheese can be substituted in this salad, but I use goat cheese because I like the contrast of the sweet crunchy beets and the soft tangy goat cheese.
Although this salad can be served by itself, I think it makes a great addition to a light meal. A pop of color can make all the difference on a plate of food–a trick I learned from my mom. The dish I prepared the night I made this salad was Catfish Picatta with Root Vegetable Mash. While that may sound delicious, just those two items alone on a plate could make even a rainbow cry.
Adding a burst of color to your dish, like these roasted Chiogga beets, turns this meal into an entirely different experience.
So cheers to you, Bea Bea, for the inspiration to cook Beets and for reminding me to never be afraid to turn the Beet around. Or should I say: the Bea-t.
Orange-Rosemary Roasted Chioggia Beets with Mixed Greens, Goat Cheese, and Maple Vinaigrette
*Serves two and makes entree-size portion*
- 2 large Chiogga Beets
- 2 teaspoons Olive Oil + 3 tablespoons for vinaigrette
- 2 small Naval Oranges (about 2 tablespoons juice total)
- 2 teaspoons Fresh Rosemary
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 large handfuls Mixed Greens
- 1/4 cup crumbled Goat Cheese
- 2 tablespoons White Balsamic Vinegar (or sub Apple Cider Vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon Maple Agave
- 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Whisk together white balsamic, maple agave, (1 tbsp) juice from orange, and Dijon. Stream in olive oil (3 tbsp) until thoroughly combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add more agave as needed. Set aside.
- Slice off the tips of the beets and using a pairing knife, trim off the skin. Slice into 1/4 inch thick circles and slice again in half.
- Toss beets with (2 tsp) olive oil, a pinch of salt, (1 tbsp) juice from orange, and chopped rosemary. Spread out on tin foil and roast for 25-30 minutes until beets are tender and a knife can slide through. Let cool.
- Toss mixed greens and beets with maple vinaigrette. Note: Don’t pour all of your dressing onto the salad; always start with a few spoonfuls so you don’t over-drench the salad. Divide onto two plates and top with goat cheese and cracked black pepper.