Vegetable dishes are often where we get our best chance to do unusual things, or experiment a bit. While we took beets off the menu a long time ago as beet salads appeared to be everywhere, I did want to do a beet dish this fall because this is such a great time of year for beets. We buy reds, whites, yellows, and chiogghias from Green Acres and Genesis Growers. The reds and whites are simply roasted to concentrate the flavors and dressed with honey sherry vinaigrette for service. The yellow and chioggia beets are pickled and colored with some of their own juice to intensify the vivid colors for the final plating. Two flavors that always work well with beets that I wanted to play with a bit – cultured dairy and fennel/anise.
To southern the dish up, I went with house-cultured buttermilk set with tapioca starch and pureed for a really thick, creamy, beet-coating texture, and absinthe jelly set with a combination of gellan F-150 and LT-100 vegetable gums, the F making the gel resilient, but it errs on the side of brittle, so the LT softens it up a bit so we get a nice pliable gel with a bit of a bite that stands texture-wise right between the beets and the buttermilk, providing both contrast and a unifying texture for the other two compnents. I reached for rye croutons since we have quite a bit of home-baked rye around and it also goes so well with anise and beets, and now we have a nice sharp crunch. Pea greens and frisee provide a little green and welcome bitterness since the other components are all either sweet, sour, or just flat-out rich.
We expect to be offering this through November – it’s refreshing yet satisfying enough to make a light lunch with some cornbread and maybe a bowl of soup.