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Utah's wet and wacky spring has upended the harvest season, as gardeners are finding watermelons, peppers, even squash are weeks behind schedule.
Thank goodness the beets are arriving right on time.
This root vegetable is flourishing right now in backyard gardens and farms, and making its way onto restaurant plates.
Consider the way five Utah chefs are cooking and serving this one ingredient.
Chilled soup • At Eatery 1025, a new Bountiful restaurant, executive chef Chelsa Best is serving a chilled beet soup. "I wanted to do something similar to a traditional borscht, but not as heavy," Best said. Instead of adding potatoes and carrots, she found herself drawn to taste of cool cucumber. " This was a lighter and cleaner version for me."
The red, nearly purple-colored, soup gets bright flavors from Greek yogurt, lemon and dill. It will be on the menu throughout the summer, said Best, who suffers from Celiac disease and offers many gluten free items on her menu.
Details • Eatery 1025, 1025 S. 500 West, Bountiful; 801-335-0394.
Stacked salad •Oasis Café makes its popular beet tower by stacking red and yellow beet slices with arugula, apple-pear chutney and soft goat cheese. The salad, which stands several inches high, has been a favorite at the Salt Lake City restaurant since chef Jared Young introduced it about eight years ago. Young, who now is the operations manager for Oasis' parent company, the LaSalle Group, said he liked the combination of hearty beets with sweet fruit. "I wanted a beet salad on the menu," he said, as it has a "meatier" flavor while offering a nice break from the usual lettuce salad.
Details • Oasis Café, 151 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City; 801-322-0404.
Fritters • Jerry Liedtke, the chef-owner of Salt Lake City's Tin Angel Cafe, won a recent Farmer's Market Chef Challenge, in part, because he served judges a top-notch appetizer with beets. Liedtke's Beet farmer fritters are super simple and contain minimal ingredients: grated beets, grated potatoes, chopped green onions, flour and seasonings. And unlike most beet recipes where 35 to 40 minutes of cooking time is required, these hashbrown-like treats come together in minutes. Last week at the restaurant the fritters were topped with duck confit, fresh strawberries, goat cheese and an apricot champagne vinaigrette.
Details • Tin Angel Cafe, 365 West 400 South, Salt Lake City; 801-328-4155.
Spiced pickles •Ethan Kawasaki, the executive chef at Communal, has hard time selecting just one favorite beet recipe. The Provo restaurant uses this under-appreciated vegetable in a variety of ways: marinated in salads, roasted in tarts and even pureed with goat cheese and served on top of fresh handmade pasta. For the home cook, though, Kawasaki says spiced pickled beets is the simplest preparation.
Details • Communal, 102 N. University Ave., Provo; 801-373-8000.
Healthy hummus •ChefJim Light, kitchen manager at Salt Lake City's Viking Cooking, got the idea for a roasted beet and chickpea hummus while enjoying a picnic at a Pink Martini concert. A friend brought a beet appetizer and "it got me thinking about adding beets to an everyday preparation like hummus," he said. He incorporated roasted beets into his usual hummus recipe for a colorful, healthy change of pace.
Details • Viking Cooking School at Kimball Distributing, 2233 S. 300 East, Salt Lake City; 801-464-0113.
Roasted beet and chickpea hummus
1/2 pound dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked overnight*
1 to 3 inch roasted beet, (red, Chioggia, or golden) peeled and diced
Salt, as needed
Juice of 1 lemon
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/3 cup tahini
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, as needed
Place the dried chickpeas in a large pot and cover with water. Soak overnight. The next day, place the pot of beans on the stove. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender. Drain and reserve cooking water.
Place the softened beans and cooked beets in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add some of the cooking water and blend into a smooth paste.
Add lemon juice, garlic, tahini, cumin and extra-virgin olive oil. Process for two minutes or until the ingredients are completely smooth. Taste, add salt and pepper for seasonings and viscosity.
Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with paprika, olives and chopped parsley. Serve with toasted pita triangles.
Note: * Canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans) may be substituted
Servings • 10 as an appetizer
Source: Jim Light, executive chef and kitchen manager, Viking Cooking School
Eatery 1025's chilled beet soup
3 red beets
1 1/2 cups diced cucumber
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sugar
Creme fraiche (for garnish)
Sprig of fresh tarragon or dill, for garnish
Place beets in a pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil over medium heat and cook until beets are fork tender. Drain and shock beets in a ice bath. When cool enough to handle, peel and slice beets. Working in batches, puree all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche, and a sprig of tarragon or dill.
Servings • 4 to 6
Source: Chelsa Best, executive chef Eatery 1025, Bountiful
Tin Angel's beet farmer fritters
1 red beet
2 Yukon gold potatoes
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup chopped green onion*
Oil (canola and olive oil blend) for frying
Salad greens, for garnish
Vinaigrette, for garnish
Using a mandolin or cheese grater, shred the beet and potatoes into a bowl. Sprinkle mixture with flour and season with salt and pepper. Add green onion. Stir to combine.
In a deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Oil should be deep enough to just barely cover the cakes. Drop silver-dollar size clumps of beet and potato mixture into oil. Cook until golden brown, about 1 minutes. Turn and cook until second side is golden.
Remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain. Season with a pinch of salt. Serve topped with salad greens and a vinagarette.
*During the farmer's market season, green onions can be substituted with fresh leeks, garlic scapes or ramps.
Servings • 4
Source: Jerry Lietke, chef and owner Tin Angel Cafe
Oasis Café's beet tower
4 cups fresh orange juice
3 ounces rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
2 cups canola oil
Pinch of sea salt
Saffron apple pear chutney
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 diced yellow onion
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger root
1 Granny Smith apple, diced
1 Anjou pear, diced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pinch saffron threads
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 jumbo red beets
2 jumbo gold beets
1/2 cup canola oil
8 ounces arugula
8 ounces goat cheese
For vinaigrette: Pass orange juice through a fine mesh strainer to remove pulp. Pour orange juice in a small sauce pan and place over medium heat. Cook, skimming occasionally, until juice has reduced by half. Remove from heat and cool. Put reduced orange juice, rice wine vinegar, honey, and sea salt in a blender. Begin to blend on medium speed. Slowly add canola oil in a thin steady stream. Vinaigrette should be light orange and creamy if it has been emulsified correctly.
For chutney: Heat canola oil in a large sauté pan or wide-mouthed pot over medium high heat. Add onions and stir constantly until they become translucent. Add ginger and continue to cook for about a minute. Stir in apples, pears, dried cranberries, and raisins. Add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and saffron. When all of the ingredients are well combined, add the vinegar. Add sea salt to taste. Continue to cook, stirring constantly until the apples and pears become tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and strain off excess liquid. Cool.
To roast beets: Heat oven to 450 degrees. Clean beets by cutting off the root end. Put beets in a large mixing bowl with oil. Rub the beets with oil until they are evenly coated. Place beets, with the stem side down on a baking sheet. Bake 30 to 45 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the beet. If the toothpick passes through easily the beets are done, if not return to oven and check again in 10 minutes. When beets are cooked through, put them in a mixing bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap (this will make them easier to peel.) Put the bowl in the refrigerator to cool. When beets are cool, rub a paring knife over the outside to remove the skin. Rinse the peeled beets in the sink. Slice the beets into 1/4-inch thick discs.
To serve: Stack beet discs, alternating colors, in the center of 4 salad plates. In a small mixing bowl, lightly dress the arugula with orange vinaigrette. Place the arugula on top of the beets. Put the chutney on top of the arugula. Sprinkle goat cheese over the top and around the plate and drizzle on more orange vinaigrette.
Servings • 4
Source: Oasis Cafe
Communal's spiced pickled beets
8 to 9 medium sized beets
2 tablespoons oil
1 1/2 cups red-wine vinegar
1⁄3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon black peppercorn
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the beets in a roasting pan and toss with oil to evenly coat. Cover and place in the oven. Roast for about one hour or until the beets are tender and are pierced easily with a butter knife. (If you are using different colored beets, each color will need to be roasted in its own pan) Remove beets from oven and cool.
While the beets are roasting, place the remaining ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and cool.
When the beets are cool enough to handle, rub off the skin with a cloth towel. Dice tor slice and place in a large container. Pour the pickling liquid over the cooked beets and store for up to a month in the fridge.
Servings • 4 cups
Source: Ethan Kawasaki, Executive chef, Communal