Baby boomers may well remember the beets of our childhood — purple, pickled and, to many, perfectly horrible. Somewhere along the line, pickled beets fell out of favor, but beets didn't disappear. They just went in a different direction — straight into the oven for roasting, which, like magic, turned them into what is now a much-loved vegetable that is one of the healthiest around.
The Meeting Place, and its adjacent St. John's Restaurant, is known for its beets.
"They've been really popular as a health food for at least 10 years," says Rebecca Barron, executive chef over both restaurants. "They are very healing for our bodies. I didn't like them when I was younger, but I think that was because of the way they were prepared. Now, I love my beets."
She likes them so much, in fact, she has a beet tattoo. "I got it about six years ago," Barron says. "I think they are beautiful."
Besides the familiar reddish-purple color, you can also find golden, white and even multicolored beets. When shopping, look for firm, smooth bulbs and bright, crisp greens that are perfect for tossing in salads, so don't toss the tops in the garbage. Roasted beets are especially good for you, as they contain betaine, a compound that may help prevent heart and liver disease. Beets also are loaded with nitrate, which is thought to increase blood flow to the brain — and potentially reduce risk of dementia, something all of us can appreciate.
Beets are at their best in the fall, but are available year-round, so Barron says she serves them all the time — in some surprising ways.
"We serve them with salads, we pickle them, we fry them, and we use the juice for dyeing other vegetables. And, of course, we juice them for cocktails," she adds.
And like Barron, her patrons have fallen in love with them.
"I have made many a beet lover out of my regular guests at St. John's and The Meeting Place," she says.
Barron says she tried dozens of recipes before she hit upon this creation — a stacked beet dish that's a favorite at The Meeting Place.
Meeting Place Beets
4 pounds beets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Splash of red wine vinegar
Pinch of sugar
2 cups water
1 orange, sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
8 ounces creamy goat cheese
1 cucumber, peeled, shaved, salted and drained in colander
1 small red onion, julienned
2 red radishes, shaved thin on a mandolin
2 tablespoons Marcona almonds
Handful of cherries, pitted
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil, mint and cilantro
1 large beet
1 cup citrus vinaigrette (homemade or store-bought)
Place 4 pounds beets in an oven-proof dish with olive oil, kosher salt, red wine vinegar, sugar, water, orange slices and thyme. Roast at 350 degrees for 2 hours or until tender. Let beets cool, then peel under cold water. Slice beets into thick slices and set aside.
Slice one large beet thinly on a mandolin, then fry in oil until they stop bubbling. Remove from oil, drain and set aside.
To plate: Using an offset spatula or spoon, spread the goat cheese on the bottom of four plates. Next, place the roasted beet slices on top of the cheese and season with a little sea salt. Place all other vegetables, except beet chips, plus nuts and cherries, in a bowl and dress them with citrus vinaigrette. Spoon the veggie salad on top of the beets and garnish with fried beet chips. Makes 4 servings.
The Believe Campaign to benefit the building of the new Children's Hospital at Erlanger is in full swing, and if you'd like to support the hospital in its efforts while enjoying the culinary masterpieces of chef Rebecca Barron at St. John's Restaurant, this dinner is for you. The five-course dinner will be paired with wines from Flowers Vineyard and Winery, a boutique winery in California along the Sonoma Coast.
The dinner will be held on Thursday evening, Sept. 28, at 6:30. Tickets are $150 per person, and all proceeds will go directly to the Believe Campaign. For information or reservations, call 423-266-4400.
Contact Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org.