There Are Beets in Your Hors d’oeuvres

A year or two ago, I attended a conference for food professionals where I always expect to see something new and different. Sure enough, during a reception, the wait staff passed around crostini with beets on them, topped with a bit of crumbled feta or blue cheese. Left to my own devices I would never have dreamed up a beet sandwich, or even an open-faced beet sandwich which, essentially, this was. It was so tasty, though, that I promised myself that I would make them for a party sometime which finally happened last week.

Lots of us grow beets. They are so wonderful right now–small, very tender and sweet. I grow as the usual suspects: Detroit Dark Red, Early Wonder Tall Top. I also grow Touchstone Gold, a bright yellow beet, which has spectacularly vibrant color. I pulled and cooked some of each for my appetizer.

I made my own crostini by slicing a baguette, spraying it with olive oil, and baking it until it was crisp. It is so easy to do this ahead, and a good way to use a day-old baguette, if you have one lying about with no particular use planned for it. I often have a tin box with ready-to-use, homemade crostini in it.

The appetizer needed some kind of dressing, and a dribble of a favorite garlic vinaigrette did the trick. I put some on the crostini, and then more on top of the crumbled feta, too. Blue cheese would serve just as well if you like it and have some on hand.

Not everyone likes beets. I haven’t tried it yet, but I suppose you could experiment with using carrots, small white turnips or daikon radish. They ought to be par-cooked, or if raw, sliced very thinly. If you have carb and/or gluten-avoiders in your midst, you could, I suppose, skip the crostini, and just use the vegetable as the base for the hors d’ oeuvres.

When I was young, beets were what you put on the plate as side vegetable for a main course. It is refreshing to live in a time when vegetables show up in less usual settings.

Beet Crostini with Feta or Blue Cheese
Half a baguette, sliced and toasted
Three to four small beets, cooked until tender
Feta or blue cheese crumbled
Mustard vinaigrette
Lay the crostini out in a single layer. Brush each with a little of the vinaigrette. Thinly slice the beets, and lay a single layer of of them on each crostini. Sprinkle the crumbled cheese on the beets, then dribble a little more dressing on the cheese. Garnish, if you wish, with finely chopped parsley or dill, or petals of edible calendula.
Makes a variable number of servings.

Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.