Mainly found at farmers’ markets, the whimsical Chioggia beet (pronounced kee-OH-gee-uh) with its mild flavor and natural beauty is fabulous eaten raw in salads. Also known as the candy cane beet or bullseye beet, this heirloom beet from Italy has a milder flavor than it’s crimson cousins. If you can’t find them, then you could use golden beets, which are slightly sweeter. Because golden beets are sweeter and less earthy, they are the perfect introduction for anyone who is a little hesitant about eating beets. As a beet lover, I think any color beet will do, though the heirloom beet varieties are brilliant to prepare since they don’t stain everything around them like the red ones do.
Hands down, candy cane beets are my favorite. With their vibrant pink rings of color, it’s hard to believe that all this beauty is natural. I am always reluctant to prepare them in any other way than raw, since those gorgeous rings fade into what looks like a pastel painting when cooked.
I have to admit, this recipe was a brain exercise that stretched my creativity. This first time I made it, I was convinced it would be a killer recipe, but instead it was a miserable flop. Boring with a capital “B”. So this time I switched out fresh squeezed orange juice for lemon, brought in some shallots and garlic to the mix, sautéed of course — let’s not go overboard here with the “raw” factor. Yes, a heap of adjustments that brought me to this super yummy version of heirloom beet carpaccio with pine nuts, lemon and dill.
As you will see, the candy-striped interior of these beets can vary in brilliance. Sometimes they are more vividly pink and other times dominated by lighter tones. I had the luck of having two different shades that demonstrate exactly this!
Whether for summertime alfresco dining or a bright idea for winter entertaining, this is a simple and delicious starter that makes a lasting impression. It’s also super healthy, since all beets are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, like betacyanin, the pigment that gives beets their color.
A word to wise, to get beets super thin a mandoline is key! Also, I like let the salad stand for 10-15 minutes to give the beets time to absorb the flavors. Enjoy!
Heirloom Beet Carpaccio
Serves 4 as a starter
2 small to medium-sized Chioggia (candy cane) beets (or another beet variety, such as golden beets, if not available), peeled and sliced thinly using a mandoline
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon, plus more
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 handfuls frisée leaves or wild greens, chopped
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
freshly grated parmesan, as garnish
lemon wedges, for serving (optional)
1. On a large platter, arrange the beets in concentric circles.
2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat-high. Add the shallots and sauté until lightly browned. Add the garlic and the pine nuts and continue to cook for 1 minute, until the garlic is fragrant.
3. Remove from the heat. Add the dill, season with salt and pepper, and juice from half the lemon.
4. Arrange the mixture from the pan over the beets. Scatter the frisée leaves on top, drizzle with olive oil and a generous squeeze of lemon. Garnish with parmesan.
For those who like a more lemony flavor, serve with extra wedges. Enjoy!
Tip: As an alternative to parmesan, garnish with crumbled chèvre goat cheese or feta cheese.