A Short and Sweet Viewpoint on Beets, by Executive Chef Taylor Sheffer
Q. Why did the Chef dance at the vegetable stand?
A. Because it had a great beet!
Beets. Most people either love them or hate them. When you think of beets, do you imagine dirt or pickled 'out-of-a-can'? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way and shouldn’t be that way! Beets grow in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Not only are they loaded with phytonutrients, which have “been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support,” but they add depth and color to a dish. Beet greens and stems can be sauteed with a little EVOO and garlic and served like spinach, or diced into your salads.
Beets contain betaine, a substance that relaxes the mind and is used in other forms to treat depression. They also contain trytophan (also found in chocolate), which contributes to a sense of well being — and eating beets will make you feel less guilty than eating the chocolate! In many cultures, the belief persists that if a man and a woman eat from the same beet, then they will fall in love.
When roasted, the palate is permeated with sweet, earthy flavors. I have heard from guests "I did not think I liked beets, but these are yummy." Give the beet a chance and let your taste buds dance! Since so many guests have asked for the recipe, I'm glad to share the Roasted Beet Napoleon I have been serving.
Roasted Beet Napoleon
Yields 6 servings
2 large beets
4 ounces softened goat cheese or cream cheese
2 Tablespoons minced fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons finely diced chives
2 Tablespoons Italian flat leaf parsley
¼ cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 English Cucumber, sliced
Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds or a favorite toasted nut
To Cook Beets: Place the beets in a double-foiled pouch (no need for oil, salt or pepper, just let the beets dance to their own groove!). Place foil pouch directly on the rack and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on the size of the beets. Test with a fork, when soft remove from oven and allow to rest with foil pouch open. Peel the beets when cool (peeling is easiest when beets are still slightly warm). I peel by gently rubbing with a moist towel as this removes the skin without misshaping by peeling with a knife or peeler. Slice beets to desired thickness and set aside.
For the Cucumber: Wash skin and slice to desired thickness. Place in a bowl of ice water to keep crisp until assembly.
For Cheese: In your favorite mixing bowl blend cheese and herbs, then slowly stream in the heavy cream. Whip until light, airy and well incorporated, adding salt and pepper to taste. At Glenlaurel, I pipe the cheese from a pastry bag, but you can spread or spoon in the cheese layer if you would like.
To Assemble: I build the Napoleons on a parchment lined cookie sheet so they have a place to chill and set. Place beet slices on parchment then spread about 1 Tbsp. cheese mixture over beet. Top cheese with a cucumber slice, pressing down so cheese oozes to edge. Spread another tablespoon of cheese on the cucumber and press down. Repeat to create a stack with cheese layered between alternating slices of beet and cucumber ending with cheese on top. Put stacks in refrigerator until you are ready to serve. Can be made up to 4 hours ahead of service. Drizzle your favorite vinaigrette or olive oil and garnish with pumpkin seeds or nuts. Serve with mixed greens, if you like.
Enjoy the dance of the beets with your taste buds!