For durability, taste and “plate appeal,” it’s hard to beat beets. This root veggie, rich in vitamins, antioxidants and flavonoid, has been gaining popularity in a number of new products, from brilliant-colored juices to snack chips and crackers.
“It’s very easy to find ways to add drama to a plate by adding beets, says cookbook author Robin Asbell. “This year’s crop is just coming in, so you can get very tender ones right now. And even if you think roasted beet salad has been ‘done and overdone,’ it really is a delicious entrée salad. If you want to try something a little more creative, beet risotto is a great vegetarian entrée. Pair it with fresh horseradish, and you’ve got a great fall special.”
Secret ingredient for chocolate desserts
Beets are also one of Asbell’s “secret ingredients” for healthier desserts. “Beets pair very well with chocolate,” she says. “They are sweet in themselves, so you can reduce sugar if you add them, and they add a delicate nuance to a dessert. And if you add a little bit of beet juice to white desserts, it can give you a lovely pink color in a natural way. It’s fun to try with crème brûlée or vanilla ice cream.”
Asbell loves to experiment with different beet varieties. “One of my favorites is the Chioggia beet (pronounced kee-OH-gee-uh), which is also known as the candy cane or candy stripe beet. I shave it thinly on a mandolin, then pair with golden beets on top, and garnish with microgreens. You can even make chips—baked or fried—and that’s a terrific garnish. It’s an impressive-looking plate.”
She urges chefs not to forget the greens, the stems and tops that might be attached to a beet order. “Those tops are one of the most nutritious greens. It’s fun to use them in the same dish as the beet roots. One classic preparation is to make borscht and top it with sautéed beet greens.”
Creative and practical
They may be a creative chef’s dream, but beets are also beloved by budget-conscious operators. “Their cost is reasonable, and they store well,” Asbell says. “They’re really kind of indestructible. You can cook them ahead and they hold well—there’s no wilting factor you have to worry about.”
Los Angles’ Times food writer Valli Herman explores why beets are the hot new ‘superfood’
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