Move over salads, beets have hit the pizza menu
I’ll never forget the pizzeria that went all-in on beets with its CSA Pizza. Galactic Pizza in Minneapolis, Minnesota featured a beet puree-based pizza that was so vibrantly colorful and unique that it popped out from four other pizzas on the table. Did I mention it was delicious? It was. The pizza was topped with roasted carrots, red onion, goat cheese, dill, honey and extra-virgin olive oil.
Before that visit a few years ago, I had only noticed beets sprinkled onto salad menus. Lately, beets have caught on and have crossed over to the pizza menu, thanks to adventurous diners and curious pizza makers looking for innovative ways to showcase this earthy vegetable.
Beets (also known as beetroot) are cultivated varieties of Beta Vularis. Roots and greens are edible and loaded with nutrients. There are dozens of varieties, but let’s hit on a few that you may come across in your area. There are the common garden beets (also called table beets or beetroot). One of the most recognized of the reds are the Detroit Dark Reds, deep in color and sweet in flavor. If you are looking for pop, try chioggia (which have a distinctive red- and white-striped interior). These “candy cane” beets are a sweet Italian variety and very popular among chefs — as are golden and white beets.
If your specialty, vegetarian or vegan game is strong, it’s time to experiment with beets in your kitchen.
The first order of business is fresh beet prep. If you’re not careful, your prep line will look like something from a crime scene. Beet juice stains. In fact, it does such a proficient job at it that beets are used in food coloring and dyes. Protect your hands and surfaces. Of course, you can avoid the mess altogether by choosing the white or gold varieties, like sugar or golden beets. But then you will miss out on the presentation of those bold and vivid deep red beets.
Beets can be incorporated cooked or uncooked. If using uncooked beets, they will have a more pronounced earthy and bitter flavor so you’ll need to balance that. The benefit is that they will have a nice crunch if that is your intention. One of the best methods to use raw beets is pickling, which will allow you to enhance the flavor profile and create a beautiful finishing ingredient. When incorporating pickled beets, expect some pink juice to leach out onto nearby ingredients.
There are several dynamite cooking methods for beets, depending on your application. Slow or fast roasting is one of the best ways to keep the color of beets, while losing the liquid. One of the not-so-secret best ways to add flavor to beets is to marinate them before roasting. Vinegars, juices, herbs and spices can really elevate the beet as a pizza topping. Try honey, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. You can roast the whole beet then peel and slice it, or vise versa. Roast beets with olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs, like thyme, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, fennel or basil.
You can even slice beets super thin and season with garlic powder, ground fennel seed, chili, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and liquid smoke and fast roast to create a beet “pepperoni.” Thinly sliced beets can also be turned into beet chips. Tip: Use different color varieties to make the chips really shine.
Other cooking methods to experiment with are steaming, boiling and frying. Play with the methods to see which works better for your beet pizza.
Since the flavor profile of beets is sweet, earthy and a bit bitter, you’ll need bright and fresh ingredients. Goat cheese is often one of the first ingredients that is paired with beets. It’s a classic pairing, so let’s look at a few combinations to use on your menu.
On the starters lineup, a beet, crushed walnut, goat cheese and hot honey crostini provides a fresh and sweet alternative to bruschetta.
Here are some ideas for white pizzas:
- Caramelized beets and onion with goat cheese
- Micro greens, feta, pickled beets and sliced beefsteak tomatoes
- Roasted beets and carrots with kale, fresh mozzarella and a balsamic drizzle
You can even make a pesto using beets. You will have to run a few trials applying the pesto in various ways. You can use it as a base, but the pesto may present better as dollops on a white cheese pizza finished with arugula, shaved Parmesan and a balsamic drizzle.
If you want to go even further with culinary beet creations, try developing a beet veggie burger. Or, this month is Valentine’s Day — beet-infused dough turns this holiday pink.
Sweet Beet Pizza
Denise Greer is Executive Editor at Pizza Today.