Aimed at the cook looking for a challenge, this sophisticated dish has beautiful, jewel-like colors. Disposable plastic gloves come in handy when it comes time to peel the roasted beets.
Servings: 4 - 6 appetizer
- For the passion fruit gelee
- 1 tablespoon (1 envelope) plain powdered gelatin
- 2 tablespoons cool water
- 1 cup frozen passion fruit or pulp*, thawed (may substitute passion fruit nectar or juice)
- For the vinaigrette
- 4 shallots, minced
- 1/2 red Thai chili pepper (bird chili pepper), seeded and minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Ground white pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- For the beets
- 1 bunch each red, gold, and candy-stripe (chioggia) baby beets, trimmed and scrubbed
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 cup water
- Ground white pepper
- 12 sprigs thyme
- 6 sprigs sage
- 1-inch piece horseradish, freshly grated, for garnish
For the passion fruit gelee: Have ready an ungreased 8-inch square or round baking pan.
Sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the cool water in a medium bowl, stir and let stand for 10 minutes to soften. Place the bowl over a pot of barely boiling water on medium heat and stir until the gelatin has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
In a medium pan over medium heat, heat the passion fruit puree or pulp, taking care not to caramelize the fruit sugars. Add the dissolved gelatin, stirring until combined. Transfer to the baking pan, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until it is firm. Cut into a small dice and store, refrigerated, in a covered container.
For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the shallots, chili pepper, thyme, balsamic and red wine vinegars. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Let the ingredients sit for 30 minutes, then whisk in the olive oil and adjust seasonings to taste. Set aside.
For the beets: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready 3 shallow baking pans. Place the beets in three small bowls, keeping each color of beet in a separate bowl.
In a separate small bowl, combine the red wine vinegar, olive oil, water, salt and white pepper to taste. Divide the mixture, and the thyme and sage sprigs, among the three bowls of beets and toss to coat evenly. Place the beets (still separated by color) in a single layer in the 3 pans, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and roast for 35 to 45 minutes until tender. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and quarter the beets (discarding the herbs). Place the colors in 3 separate containers and set aside to come to room temperature.
To assemble, place 5 pieces of each color of beet on individual plates (for a total of 10 to 15 pieces per plate). Spoon the vinaigrette over the beets. Sprinkle the diced passion fruit gelee over each serving. Using a microplaner or the smallest holes of a box grater, grate a sparse dusting of tiny flecks of fresh horseradish over the beets and the gelee. Season with salt, white pepper and olive oil. Serve immediately.
*NOTE: Frozen passion fruit pulp is available at Shoppers Food & Pharmacy stores.
Adapted from recipe by chef Tony Conte at the Oval Room.
Tested by Jane Touzalin.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.