I have come to the conclusion that people either love beets or they really, really do not. I’ve heard people say that beets taste like dirt; I like to think of them as having an earthy flavor. Last year I had dinner with a group of people, including a few who had never had beets (apparently beets aren’t so popular in Korea), and was taken aback by how offended one friend was by the beet salad I ordered for the table. I happen to love beets. What’s not to love about them? They’re sweet and versatile and full of antioxidants. But I must confess that I wasn’t always a fan.
I grew up watching my Mom put canned beets on her salads. As a child I thought they were weird and sort of flavorless. But as I got older I acquired a taste for them and found myself piling beets on my salads. When I started roasting beets at home, I fell in love. No store bought canned/jarred beets compare to fresh beets. Once you’ve had roasted beets, you can’t really go back. I also went through a borscht faze a few years back, which really sealed the deal for me (I promise I’ll do a borscht post one of these days).
While having lunch with friends at Luka’s a few weeks ago, two items on their menu immediately caught my eye. One was a beet and grapefruit salad, the other was a beet sandwich. The sandwich was composed of all the elements of a good beet salad: fennel, goat cheese, and arugula. I, the beet lover, had never even thought about putting beets on a sandwich. I was so intrigued that I had to ask our waitress about it. And since she was so convincing (she totally twisted my arm ::winkwink::), I decided I had to try it for myself. That sandwich was exactly what I wanted that day- something on the healthy side but still very satisfying (thank you, chevre!). And it was the perfect accompaniment to the beer and oysters on the half shell that we started off with. I was not disappointed. And I’ve been hooked ever since.
makes 2 sandwiches
2-3 medium chioggia beets
4 slices of bread ( I like it on a country levain)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 – 1/2 cup goat cheese
1 bulb fennel, sliced thin
1 cup packed arugula
1/2 red onion, grilled or raw (sliced really thin)
2-3 tablespoons aioli or your favorite mayonnaise
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Scrub beets well and place on a sheet of parchment lined with foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold up the corners of the parchment and foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about an hour, or until tender. When beets are cool enough to handle, remove skin and slice into rounds. Set aside.
Lightly butter the backsides of bread and place in a large skillet or griddle. Grill until golden brown. Spread a generous layer of goat cheese on two of the slices of grilled bread. Layer the beet slices on top of the goat cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place fennel, red onion and arugula on top of the beets. Spread aioli on the remaining slices of grilled bread and place on top. Cut in half diagonally and serve with a good dill pickle.
Who needs a top? For those watching their carbs, this works well as a open-faced sandwich. Toss fennel and arugula in aioli to lightly coat and mound on top of beets.