For whatever reason, it seems like beets often get a bad rap. Maybe people think they only come rubbery and syrupy out of a can. But, as I've recently discovered for myself - fresh beets are amazing! They have a uniquely sweet, earthy flavor that just can't be beat. (Ok, bad pun.) Really though, if you're not eating them already, you should give them a try. Nothing bugs me more than people who say they don't eat this or that, whatever it might be, when the only time they might have tried that item was years ago, prepared by someone who didn't quite know what they were doing or who wasn't using the freshest, most tasteful of ingredients. So, here's your chance to try beets again, or add another method to your beet repertoire. It's a quick salad called Beets Margherita.
Last week guest chef Randal Smathers and I presented this dish at an Everyday Chef cooking demo. It is essentially a Caprese Salad (mozzarella, tomato and basil) but with the tomatoes replaced by beets. And it works very well. As Randal noted, a good dish has a mix of flavors. The sweetness of the beets partners well with the bitterness of greens, sourness of the vinegar, and umaminess (earthiness/meatiness) of the mozzarella.
Don't forget to save the beet greens! Here are some ideas for how to use them.
- 2 medium beets
- 4 oz. fresh mozzarella
- 3 cups mesclun or other bitter greens
- Fresh basil leaf
- 1-2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1-2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Black pepper
- Optional garnishes: Blueberries, raw or cooked onion, grilled meats.
Take off the tops and root stems from the beets; boil in lightly salted water for 10-15 minutes until fork tender, then cool in an ice bath or under running tap water. Scrape the loosened skin with a paring knife or simply slide the skins off.
Slice the beets and mozzarella, taking care to keep them separate. Shred the basil leaf.
Arrange the greens on a plate. Top with the sliced beets and cheese, garnish with basil and any optional garnishes, drizzle with oil and vinegar and a grind of black pepper, and serve with flatbread.
- Add grilled meat (chicken, beef or lamb); serve the salad on top of the flatbread.
- If you’re using a home-baked flatbread, put the half the sliced beets, cheese, basil and onion on the flatbread before baking; serve the greens on the flatbread and use the other half of the "toppings" as garnishes.