Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Second Helping: Beets with Cherry Vinaigrette


As I dropped my first-grader off at day camp, I asked if he wanted anything in particular from the farmer's market.

"Those yellow raspberries," he said. "And beets."

Beets?! It was the kind of response parents dream about, the kind we like to casually mention to friends (and I did): Beets! He asked for beets!

Beets certainly can be a hard sell. I used to think I hated them; it turns out, I don't like canned beets. And I avoid the commonplace red beets. Not because I'm a snob, but because I hate staining my fingers, the cutting board, and my clothes with magenta juice. Gold beets aren't messy, and best of all are chioggia beets. They have beautiful red-and-white rings when sliced, and a nice sweetness. Both are gorgeous on a plate.

Chioggia beets are easiest to find at farmer's markets and in CSA shares, and you should be able to find golden yellow beets at a good produce market. If you have a patch of dirt to spare, trying growing some at home.

My son likes them steamed or roasted, plain, in chunks or slices, sometimes with a bit of butter or olive oil. I like them all these ways and simply grated raw. The first time you offer this to kids, serve the vinaigrette on the side in case it's a deal-killer.

Beets with Cherry Vinaigrette

This makes enough to serve four, with dressing left over. It works nicely on a greens salad, with chicken, and I would think with citrus fruit. Feel free to use all red wine or balsamic vinegar, if you prefer.

3 golden or chioggia beets
For vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
6-8 sweet cherries, pitted
salt and pepper to taste
1 or 2 shallots (optional)

Scrub the beets well and wrap each individually in foil. Cook the beets using one of these methods: steam in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes, simmer for 40 minutes, or wrap in foil and bake at 400 degrees for an hour or until tender. Run cooked beets under cold water to cool and slip off skins. (You can store the cooked beets for a few days in the fridge.)

Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a blender and whir until well combined, adjusting seasoning to suit your taste. You can make this ahead and store it in the refrigerator a few days; whisk well before serving.

To serve, slice beets and arrange on serving plates. Drizzle vinaigrette over beets, or serve on the side.

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