Ruby beets and sunset citrus banish winter doldrums
Spending time at his grandparents’ farm near Liberty, Andrew Longres learned the “instant gratification” of a just-picked tomato or the scent of new-mown hay. Both the tomatoes and the hay now make appearances on the menu at Bluestem, where Longres is executive chef. Longres toasts the hay (used to feed livestock as opposed to straw for bedding) in clarified butter to make “Hay Bearnaise” to accompany a rib eye.
This free-spirited approach, grounded in what’s best in our region, is Longres’ motto. “Play with it, have fun with it,” he says about flavor and food.
Seasonality is also key. “Beets are sweetest in cold weather,” he says. Thane Palmberg supplies the little ruby wonders, which Longres pairs with citrus fruits grown in sunnier climes. The nasturtiums, with their sweet petals and peppery leaves, can be pot-grown indoors all year long. Bluestem’s come from City Bitty Farms in Grandview.
The fun comes on the plate, when a humble winter vegetable and buttermilk dressing take their star turn with pops of edible color.
Marinated Baby Beets with Winter Citrus and Nasturtiums
Makes 2 servings
12 baby red beets, cleaned, unpeeled and tops removed
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. champagne vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. olive oil
FOR THE WINTER CITRUS:
1 Meyer lemon
1 blood orange
Sugar for sprinkling
FOR THE BUTTERMILK DRESSING:
Reserved zest of the Meyer lemon
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
Sea salt to taste
10-15 thin slices of red, black, or watermelon radishes
6-8 nasturtium petals
6-8 nasturtium leaves
Olive oil for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place the beets on a sheet of aluminum foil. Crimp and seal to make a packet. Place the packet on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, checking the beets every 20 minutes for doneness. When the beets are tender, transfer the packet to the kitchen counter and let rest for 10 minutes. Open the packet to let the steam escape, then gently rub the beets with a kitchen towel to remove the skins. Place the beets in a bowl and season with the sea salt, olive oil, champagne vinegar and sugar. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days before serving.
For the winter citrus, zest the Meyer lemon and set aside. Peel the grapefruit and blood orange. Using a sharp knife, cut the lemon, grapefruit, and orange into sections, removing the bitter white pith. Sprinkle the sections with a little sugar to help keep the fruit intact.
For the buttermilk dressing, whisk the lemon zest, buttermilk, sugar and salt together until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To serve, place half the beets on each plate in a scattered pattern. Arrange the citrus sections around the beets and pool the buttermilk dressing around them. Arrange the radishes, petals and leaves in a pleasing pattern. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve.