I planted several varieties of beets in my garden including, “Golden, Early Wonder, Flat of Egypt and Chioggio.” They range from the lovely pale anemic beet, “Albino”, to the “Bull’s Blood” beet that bleeds a healthy iron red from the moment I cut the stems in the garden.
The first preparation I tried, after digging the “Bull’s Blood” beets from my garden; washing , destemming, and peeling a few, was thinly slicing the raw beets with a mandolin. Holding them up to the light they resembled bunderfleisch [dried beef] or beef carpaccio [Italian thinly sliced beef appetizer] I decided to make a Beet Carpaccio. It couldn’t be easier.
Arrange the mandolined raw beet slices on an individual serving plate.
Pour a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil on top. It will form a little pool on the bottom of the plate looking like “beef jus”. Sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Traditionally, beef carpaccio is served with shaved Parmesan on top but I thought visually and tastewise, fresh pomegranite seeds would work better. The vinegar will slightly “cook” the beets giving you an intriguing texture and taste between raw and cooked.
After the ersatz beef beet dish, the next “Bull’s Blood” beet preparation needed some real, and more faux bull’s blood. For the real, little beef meatball’s and for the false, a Hungarian wine, “Egri Bikaver”, translating as bull’s blood, would inspire this recipe.
For this and the following recipe, scrub the beets and cut off the stems and tops, reserving them for later. Bake the beets in the oven until a knife pierces them easily. Cool and peel.
Saute hazelnuts in butter until slightly browned. Cool. Roughly chop 1 tablespoon of the nuts for the meatballs and set the rest aside for the final dish.
Prepare the meatballs by mixing 1/2 lb. ground beef, 1/2 cup bread soaked in water and squeezed of excess liquid, 1 tablespoon chopped hazelnuts, chopped mint and thyme to taste. Form small meatballs, about an inch in diameter, from the mixture and roll them a little flour. Set aside until ready to assemble the dish.
Cut the reserved beet tops and stems into ribbons width-wise.. Usually they would be called beet greens, but these tops are burgundy red. Saute them in a mixture of butter and olive oil until softened. Put them aside while you cook the meatballs.
Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the floured meatballs. Saute until browned. Start adding the red wine until you have a pleasant textured sauce and the alcohol has evaporated. Add chopped fresh mint and thyme to taste. Cube some beets. Add to sauce and simmer with the meatballs in the sauce. Reheat the beet tops and when hot, drizzle with honey. Place the warm greens on individual serving plates. Add some whole sauteed hazelnuts to the meatball, beet and sauce mixture. Put a portion over each plate of beet tops and serve.
For the final beet recipe, cube the rest of the baked beets. Make a sauce of 1 cup light sour cream, 4 teaspoons of sugar, and 3/4 of a teaspoon prepared mustard. Taste it to see if you have the right blend of sweet and pungent. If necessary balance the ingredients to taste. Add cubed beets, a cubed “Fuji” apple, and a cubed dill cucumber pickle, the pickle in slightly smaller cubes than the apples and beets.[The pickle should be of the brined type not a vinegared one.] Mix all the ingredients together until blended. Can be served right away or refrigerated for serving the same day.