The seasonal produce available in Ohio expands as we head into June, providing cooks with a greater variety of options: cabbage, collards, endive, kale, peas, spinach and strawberries. June also is the beginning of the season for a quirky little vegetable, the beet.
Fresh, raw beets are high in vitamin C, iron, magnesium, folate and potassium. To purchase the best fresh beets, look for them with the tops still attached. The tops should be bright green and show no wilting or yellowing. A fresh top means a fresh beet.
Look for small or medium-sized roots with a uniform shape and firm, smooth flesh. Avoid beets that seem too woody or are breaking out in hairy root tips-these are going to be tough.
You can store beets for up to a week in the refrigerator, but first cut off the green top about an inch above the root. The tops don't keep as long and can encourage decay. (Tip: beet greens are edible, too, and rather mild. Consider a sauté tossed in some pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and garlic.)
Beets are a welcome addition to the kitchen. They can be roasted, steamed or made into chutney or soups. They also add a bright pop of color when thinly sliced in a salad. To prepare for cooking, scrub the beets, but wait to peel until after cooking-the skin will slough off.
Executive chef Andrew Brannin of the Burgundy Room, 641 N. High St. in the Short North, has supplied his recipe for baby beet carpaccio-a favorite of summer diners.
Baby beet carpaccio (serves two)
3 baby golden beets
3 baby red or chioggia beets (two-tone, red and white when sliced)
2 small radishes
4 ounces chevre
3 ounces micro greens (baby salad greens)
1 to 2 ounces of lemon oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
sea salt and fresh coarse ground black pepper (to taste)
Shave the beets and the radishes thinly with a mandolin slicer (you want to be able to see light through slices).
On a chilled plate, slightly overlap one slice of red beet, one slice of golden beet and one slice of radish. Continue this until you have covered the entire plate.
Using a microplane or box grater, zest the orange and reserve.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, half of the zest and lemon oil (you want a light dressing, so a minimal amount of oil is needed). Whisk to combine.
Toss the micro greens in the dressing and place in the center of the beets. Sprinkle the sea salt and pepper on the beets and micro greens. Lightly drizzle some lemon oil and the remaining orange zest on the beets. Crumble the cheese over the plate.