Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
Today: We're talking about a controversial taproot -- the beet. Whether you love or hate them will probably determine whether you describe their flavor as earthy or reminiscent of dirt. Can we at least agree that these diminutive Chioggia beets have a stunning secret?
Chioggia (that’s kee-oh-jah) beets are a sweet Italian heirloom variety. Their burgundy exterior hides their claim to fame -- a stunning fuchsia- and white-striped interior (1), earning them nicknames like candy cane beets or bullseye beets. Even though we're partial to beets that come wearing their own candy striper costume, beets come in other shades, too: the familiar deep-red to purple, golden yellow, and even white. Beets belong to the Amaranth family (along with spinach, swiss chard, and quinoa) and they're quite the divisive vegetable -- even the White House garden is a beet-free zone.
When selecting beets at your local farmers market, choose firm bruise-free roots, preferably with fresh perky greens -- by now you know not to toss any part of your vegetables, right? Plus, Deborah Madison thinks Chioggia (and golden) beet greens are especially “thick, lush, and tender.” Store your beets just like carrots and parsley root: Separate the greens from the root (2), leaving a bit of the stem on the root (3). Grab a plastic bag for the greens (4) and store both parts separately (5) in the fridge.
We're pretty sure the First Family is missing out, but you don’t have to. Chiogga beets can be used just like any other type of beet, and bonus -- they don’t bleed color onto every surface in sight. If you want to keep those pretty stripes intact, enjoy your chiogga beets raw in a salad, or deep-fried as chips -- though cooking will slightly fade their pattern. For a less dramatic (but just as tasty) presentation, try them roasted, steamed, braised, sautéed, pickled, or the hands-down best way to cook beets -- according to Amanda anyway.
Once they’re cooked, you can go easy on dressing them with butter or oil, as fats roll off of their slick surface. Plus, as Deborah Madison notes, “it’s acid that they really want.” So grab your favorite bottle of vinegar and get ready to enjoy beets all week long with us:
Friday: Jamie Oliver's Smoked Beets
Saturday: Beet Carpaccio with Sunflower Sprouts
Sunday: Beets Anna with Maple Butter
Monday: Warm Orzo Salad with Beets & Greens
Tuesday: Apple Beetroot Carpaccio Salad with Mustard and Feta
Wednesday: Beets in Lime Cream: 1987
Thursday: Roasted Beetroot Panzanella
Photos by James Ransom