Sunday, January 30, 2011

edible Vineyard Beet Chips

It’s taken me a long time to appreciate the beauty and flavor of beets.  They might not look like much in their unscrubbed state but their scruffy exterior belies a jewel-like appearance just under the surface.  A little cleaning up does a beet wonders. 
What most of us think of as a beet is actually the root; the stems and leaves attached to the root are also edible and extremely nutritious.  Beet leaves are loaded with vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium.  Beetroots are an excellent source of folate, beta-carotene, fiber, manganese, potassium, and betalains, which are known to detoxify the liver.

Raw beets (beetroots, that is) may be grated by hand or in a food processor then added to a green salad or tossed with a simple vinaigrette and made into a salad of its own.  If you prefer your beets cooked, take those same grated beets and sauté them on the stove with a little olive oil or butter, salt and pepper. 
I’ve come to love roasted beets, served either warm or cold, and have found this Alice Waters' recipe to be an easy, fail-proof method:
1 pound beets
1 teaspoon vinegar (red wine, sherry, or white wine)
1 – 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Trim greens from beet; save for another use.  Wash beets thoroughly.  Place them in a baking dish with enough water to cover the bottom of the dish to a depth of 1/8 of an inch.  Sprinkle with salt, cover tightly, and bake in oven until they are easily pierced with a knife, about 30 – 60 minutes, depending on their size.  Uncover and cool.  Cut top and bottom of beets and slip off skins.  Cut the peeled beets into small wedges and sprinkle with vinegar and salt.  Let stand for a few minutes to allow beets to absorb the flavor.  Taste and add more salt and/or vinegar as needed.  Toss with olive oil and serve. 
Every time I make beets this way for my mom she says “These are good but I’d love them with just a little butter on top, nothing else”.  We kid my mom that she is a Plain Jane when it comes to food, which she claims is “the English” in her.   In truth, I think it sounds like a delicious idea (I’m a bit of a food Plain Jane myself, too – the simpler, the better). 

I’ve wanted to make beet chips for a while and last Sunday’s NFL playoff games seemed like an opportune moment to do so.  Chips and football are a classic combination.  In edible Vineyard’s most recent issue there is a beet chip recipe, which unlike others I have seen, calls for a pinch of cayenne.  I liked the sound of that – I love food with a little kick – and decided to give it a go.  The recipe was a success but sadly, my hometown Jets were not.  That’s all right; I discovered a new recipe to add to my culinary repertoire.  Not to mention I’m really a Giants fan, anyway.
Playoff football may be over but Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner.  If you’d like a healthy, colorful, delicious alternative to the ubiquitous potato chip, this is it.  I swear it’s just as good as a potato chip, albeit in a different way.  You’ll never replace the addictive taste of a traditional fried, salty chip, but the sweet, earthy taste of beets is truly a winner.  
Beet Chips  
Adapted from edible Vineyard, Harvest 2010

I used my Dad’s fancy mandoline to slice the beets and I’ll be honest, I do not like that thing. I find the whole apparatus not that easy to maneuver, which makes its big, sharp, scary blade even more ominous.  My knife skill aren’t so fabulous that I can cut paper thin slices freehand so I was forced to use it anyway.  You can be sure the next time I’ll prep the beets with my little hand-held slicer which can be picked one up at any kitchen supply store; I got mine at Muji, a cool Japanese retailer with a nice line of housewares.
The edible Vineyard recipe wasn’t terribly detailed but then again, baking chips is a fairly straightforward thing.  Another change I’ll make next time is to forget about brushing each chip with oil as called for in the eV recipe and instead toss them in a bowl with the oil and cayenne.  Not only will this take less time, I believe it will give the chips a lighter coating of oil and make for an even crispier chip.
The beet slices shrank quite a bit so don’t be afraid to pack the slices onto the pan in a single layer.  I have another recipe that calls for putting the beets on a rimmed sheet pan then stacking another, identical sheet pan on top.  This probably helps keep the chips flat but I liked the way mine contorted into twisted shapes.  It’s less fussy and less clean up, too.    
Red and golden beets
A few teaspoons of olive oil
Pinch of cayenne
Sprinkle of kosher salt
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Slice beets thin using a mandoline or any other hand slicer.  
In a large bowl, whisk olive oil and cayenne.  Add sliced beets to bowl and toss to coat slices with oil mixture.  Spread beets on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt.

Bake for about 15 minutes on each side, until crisp.  Serve.

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