This recipe offers a lovely combination of texture and color, perfect for a first course. Look for smooth, hard, round beets; a healthy deep red color is an indicator of quality. The surface should be free of bruises and cuts. Avoid beets with soft, moist spots or shriveled, flabby skin. The taproot, which extends from the bulbous part of the beet, should be slender. Dry-heat cooking locks in nutrients and intensifies the natural sweetness of beets.
For the beets:
1 bunch beets, 3 large (can also substitute canned beets – see Chef Note)
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
For the filling:
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons fresh chives
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves removed
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 cup mascarpone cheese
10 sprigs fresh chives, for decoration
¼ cup walnuts
12 fresh chives (can substitute parsley sprigs)
4 tablespoons walnut oil, for drizzling
Prepare the beets:
Preheat oven to 400° F. Remove all but 1 inch of stems from beets. Wash thoroughly and dry. Place on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Drizzle with oil and add garlic. Sprinkle on salt and pepper. Create a packet around beets, leaving a small hole at the top for venting. Bake for about 40 minutes or until beets give to the pressure of a paring knife. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Remove skins and slice.
[Chef’s Note: If using canned beets, skip this first step.
If using fresh, look for smooth, hard, round beets; a healthy deep red color is an indicator of quality. The surface should be free of bruises and cuts. Avoid beets with soft, moist spots or shriveled, flabby skin. The taproot, which extends from the bulbous part of the beet, should be slender. Dry-heat cooking locks in nutrients and intensifies the natural sweetness of beets.]
Drizzle the 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar over the sliced beets and let sit while making the filling.
Prepare the filling:
Place garlic, chives, parsley and thyme in small bowl of food processor and pulse to mince. Add salt and pepper, walnut oil and mascarpone cheese and pulse to blend.
Assemble the napoleons:
Remove beets from vinegar (or drain from can) and pat dry with paper towels. Try to keep slices from each beet together to create perfectly matched stacks.
With a butter knife, take a bit of mascarpone cheese filling and spread over the top of each beet slice. Place beets in size order into a stack. You should have 3 or 4 layers. Top with a small dollop of Mascarpone mixture.
[Chef’s Note: You will prevent your hands from turning purple by wearing plastic gloves while handling the beets. In addition, it is a good idea to cover the table you are working on with newspaper or paper towels to catch any drips and make cleanup easier.]
Place beet stack on a serving dish. Place one large piece of walnut in center and decorate with chives or parsley. Place a few chopped walnuts around plate and drizzle with the walnut oil. Serve immediately.
Recipe by Lia Soscia