Ask the average non-Italian to give you a rundown on Italian cuisine and chances are it will sound like this: "Spaghetti…with meatballs, Fettuccini...
Many of us grew up being forced to eat certain vegetables and our household was no exception. Although our mother meant well, those dark red, slippery beets led the pack in this ritual of parental torture. Luckily, in adulthood, as I began to appreciate the earthy sweetness of this spectacular vegetable, I also realized that these little beauties are also a nutritional powerhouse. Turns out Mom was right after all.
These are two of my favorite ways to use fresh beets. Simple roasted beets and carrots are taken to a new level with the additional crunch of shredded raw beet added to a light vinaigrette dressing. Or pump up the wow factor and serve beets for dessert in a simple beet sorbetto. This vibrant hued dessert, especially when paired with a simple pound or olive oil cake, will have your family thinking you have been taking cooking classes on the sly.
Beet and Mascarpone Sorbetto
•About 4 large beets, scrubbed and unpeeled
•1/3 cup mascarpone
•1 ½ cups sugar
•1 cup water, plus additional for beet puree
•Juice from ½ lemon
Ice cream maker
Cut the tops from the beets leaving about 1 inch of stems. Place the beets in a medium saucepan and add cold water to cover the beets by about an inch. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until the beets are soft and tender about 30 minutes. Test the doneness by inserting a fork into the beets – if no resistance, the beets are ready to go. (You may need to add additional water to keep the beets submerged.) When cooked, remove the beets from the water and allow to cool. Roughly chop the beets.
Put the beets in the blender and puree. Add the mascarpone. You want about 2 cups of beet puree. If the puree is too thick or looks to be less than 2 cups, add some water and puree again. Place mixture in a bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill completely.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil while whisking to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture into another bowl and place in the refrigerator to also chill completely.
When both mixtures are chilled, combine and whisk in the lemon juice. Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once done, transfer to an airtight container and freeze until the sorbet is firm, at least a few hours.
Roasted Beets and Carrots with Gorgonzola and Beet Vinaigrette
•1 bunch beets (about 5-6 small to medium beets)
•1 bunch carrots (about 6)
•1 teaspoon sea salt, plus additional
•Sprigs of thyme (or other favorite herb)
For the vinaigrette:
•About 1 teaspoon salt
•2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
•¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
•Freshly ground black pepper
•Chopped walnuts, toasted
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut the tops from the beets leaving about 1 inch of stems. Trim any greens from the carrots, also leaving about 1 inch of stem. Reserve one smaller raw beet for the dressing. Place the remaining beets in a medium saucepan and add cold water to cover both the beets by about an inch. Add about 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat then reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered. Meanwhile, peel the carrots and the small raw beet. Add the carrots to the boiling water and blanche for 3 minutes or so until crisp tender. Remove the carrots and place under cold water. Set aside.
Continue to check the beets for doneness. Test by inserting a fork into the beets – if no resistance, the beets are ready to go. (You may need to add additional water to keep the beets submerged.) When cooked, remove the beets from the water and cool. Peel the beets using your fingers.
Halve the carrots. Trim the tops off the beets and cut into 6 or 8 segments. Toss the carrots with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and thyme. Set on one side of a baking sheet. Do the same to the beets and set on the other side of the baking sheet. Sprinkle both with sea salt. Place in the oven. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until veggies begin to brown.
Make the beet vinaigrette. Grate the raw peeled beet into a small bowl. Add the salt and toss. Add the oil and vinegar. Toss again. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Stir and adjust seasonings if needed.
When the veggies are done roasting, remove from oven. Plate the veggies on a platter. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Crumble the Gorgonzola on top and sprinkle with toasted walnuts and serve!
Joe and Michele Becci are a brother and sister team who love all things Italian. Joe lives in LA; Michele in eastern Pennsylvania. Together, they co-author the blog OurItalianTable.com.