Sweet, earthy and exquisitely balanced between brooding dark flavours and red-berry acidity, beets are one of autumn’s greatest vegetables. They can also be a little daunting if you’ve never prepared them before. Claudio Aprile, the chef behind both Origin and Colborne Lane in Toronto, has served them dozens of ways throughout his career: stuffed with goat cheese, crisped like potato chips, transformed into gels and caviar balls, and straight-up roasted, which has a way of bringing out their best. Here, he shows a simple roasting technique that’s both foolproof and infinitely adaptable.
1. Pick beets that have their stems if possible; trim away any bruised leaves and stem, but otherwise leave intact. Scrub and rinse under cold water.
2. Arrange in small bunches (two to four is best, depending on size; if you have a few different varieties, avoid mixing so their colours don’t bleed into each other) on large sheets of parchment paper. Each bunch should sit on the bottom half of a sheet. Add fresh thyme and rosemary sprigs, drizzle with olive oil, sherry vinegar and a little water, and season aggressively with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Add whole olives if you like; they’ll help to balance the sweetness.
3. Fold the top half of each parchment sheet over the beets to cover (you may need to bend the stems to fit), then roll edges tightly to seal each packet. Roast in a 400 F oven for 90 minutes, or until tender inside.
4. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Rub the skins off with paper towel and slice, or even better, if the beets are small and freshly dug, serve them in their unopened parchment packets with a little pair of scissors – the aroma is amazing as your guests cut them open.