An Earthy Experience
Of all the root vegetables, beets usually are described as the most “earthy tasting.” This flavor comes from a compound called geosmin. Researchers are unsure whether the beet produces geosmin, or if a microbe called an actinomycete that lives in symbiosis with the beet in the soil is responsible. Either way, geosmin is a natural part of the beet experience. Without it, a beet’s flavor would be shallow and flat.
Baked Beet Salad
4 medium-sized beets
4 handfuls salad greens, such as mache spinach, lettuce, tatsoi, mustard or baby beet leaves
1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chervil or 1 tablespoon tarragon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Remove the tops of the beets and set aside to use in another dish. Wash the roots and put them in a casserole dish with a lid. Bake at 300 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. (If you are baking different-colored beets, cook them in separate casserole dishes, or the colors will bleed.) Remove the dish from the oven, let the beets cool, then peel and thinly slice them into julienne. Refrigerate until ready to use. Toss the greens with three-quarters of the vinaigrette and arrange them on a serving plate. Put the beets in a small bowl, pour the rest of the dressing over them and stir to coat the beets. Arrange the beets over the greens, and sprinkle feta cheese over the beets. Serves 4 to 6.