These days, heirloom beets are all over farmers markets and upscale grocery stores. Grown from seeds that have been kept over the years, they come in a mass of colours and are a sharp contrast to the big, tough-skinned brutes we are used to seeing. The ruby red variety, for instance, reveals candy-like stripes when you slice into it. Others are golden or crimson in tone. Although the smaller beets can be eaten raw, I prefer them (briefly) cooked. The leaves make a good sauté of greens.
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This earthy appetizer is a more traditional recipe for beets and often appears in different forms on restaurant menus.
4 large or 8 small beets, preferably golden or mixed colour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vegetable or walnut oil
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup walnut halves
2 cups baby arugula
2 tablespoons torn mint leaves
4 ounces (125 grams) goat cheese, crumbled
2 shallots, chopped (about ¼ cup)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon walnut oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Maldon salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450 F. Toss beets with olive oil and water. Place in a baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until tender. Cool and skin.
Heat oil in small non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add walnuts and sauté for 1 minute. Add sugar and cook until walnuts are coated with sugar and pale gold in colour (about 2 minutes). Quickly remove nuts to parchment-lined sheet. Cool.
Divide arugula between four plates. Slice beets very thinly and lay on top of arugula. Scatter with goat cheese and mint.
Combine shallots, sherry vinegar, walnut oil, extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle over salads and finish with Maldon salt and pepper.