Beet carpaccio is an easy vegetarian twist on the classic Italian dish. It makes a wonderfully elegant and tasty appetizer, or pair it with a range of mains as a side. Perfect as part of a special meal, or whatever the excuse.
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Some vegetables can be a little under-loved, and beets are one of them. To a point, I can understand why. If your only experience was the incredibly sharp, pickled versions out of a packet, I would probably agree. But if you give them a chance (and prepare them differently), they can be so tasty.
Beets, or beetroot, are a root vegetable that you can roast or boil to use in various ways, but you can also enjoy them raw. They have a slight natural sweetness and amazing color. And not just the more common purple/red, but also literally gold-tinged golden and the pink and white striped chioggia beets are just as, if not more, pretty.
I have already shared a few other salad-like dishes that bring out their best, like my raw beet quinoa salad and beet and apple salad. Then other dishes which make the most of their beautiful color include beet gnocchi and beet cured salmon.
This dish both draws on the color, as well as the flavor it has to make a lovely vegetarian twist on a classic beef carpaccio. I often shy away from using the 'meaty' name for a vegetable dish, but actually here I think it fits well.
What is carpaccio?
Carpaccio was created at Harry's Bar in Venice by Giuseppe Cipriani in 1963. Apparently he made it for a countess who was recommended by her doctor to eat raw meat.
The original dish was made by pounding thin slices of beef which were then dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and truffles or parmesan cheese. The dish drew on a Piedemonte regional twist on steak tartare, carne cruda all'albese, which uses these flavors.
The name of the dish comes from the Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio, who was known for the red and white tones in his paintings (as you can see in this collection of works). The idea was that the raw meat had these same colors. (And that same lovely color is kind of true for beets!)
Since it's creation, carpaccio has become a popular appetizer around the world, and has a few variations using other meats and fish like salmon.
This vegetable variation
This beet or beetroot carpaccio draws on the style of the original, but instead uses thinly sliced beets. It is possible to make a version using raw beet, but I prefer this roasted beet version as the slices are more tender and the flavor fits that bit better.
As with beef carpaccio, a simple arugula salad and citrus dressing pairs well, though in this case I have made an orange vinaigrette. You could use lemon, but orange pairs well with beet and draws on the slightly sweet tones.
Walnuts are another great pairing with beet, so a few toasted nuts on top works perfectly to add texture and flavor. If you like, a few chunks of goat cheese would be great in there as well, though that clearly means the dish is no longer vegan.
Tips for making this dish (and preparing ahead)
This dish is really easy, and can be prepared ahead in a few ways as well. Roasting beets is what takes the longest, but you can do this ahead of time. You can store the cooked beets in the foil you cook them in for a couple days in the fridge.
The exact roasting time can vary, but you can check by inserting a knife into the middle then cooked, you should get only a little resistance.
Top tip: don't peel before roasting
I recommend that you don't peel the beets before roasting, just scrub them well to remove dirt then wrap in foil. The peel comes off more easily after cooking, plus it helps hold in the moisture.
Remember, beets can stain, so you might want to use disposable gloves when you peel and slice them. A mandolin is probably most efficient to slice, but you can also use a wide vegetable peeler.
The vinaigrette can be made ahead as well and stored in the fridge for a few days. You may need to bring it to room temperature before using so it mixes a little better. And certainly, whisk or shake the dressing right before using as it will tend to settle out, like any dressing.
You can also toast the walnuts ahead of time and store at room temperature. I do highly recommend you don't skip the toasting, though, tempting as it may be - it really brings out the flavor and takes no time at all.
While I forgot to for the video here (oops!), I recommend tossing the arugula with the dressing so that the leaves are coated evenly. But I suggest only doing this right before plating everything up so the leaves don't wilt.
While as I say this makes a lovely light, simple appetizer as it is, you could make a few additions. A minor one, that fits well, is adding some goat cheese, as I mention above. You could further add to the arugula salad part with some shaved fennel and roasted grapes, for example. Then if you are looking for a larger appetizer, try serving burrata with it too.
If served as a side, it would go well with a range of proteins like a simple steak, lamb chops, roast chicken or salmon. Or to keep it vegetarian/vegan, then something like some mushroom-loaded toast would be great alongside this.
Beet carpaccio is to me not simply a vegetarian version of a meaty dish. It's in effect an elegant way of preparing a salad, but one that's wonderful in it's simplicity. Beautiful colors, lovely textures and delicate flavors. It makes a wonderful start to many a meal, or side to something equally simple yet delicious.
Try these other easy appetizers (that look impressive):
- Baked mussels (really easy to prepare but they look that bit more fancy)
- Turkish stuffed grape leaves, yalanci dolma (OK, they take a bit of time to roll but they are easy and this style is vegetarian too)
- Pea and mint soup (soup is always great to start a meal and this one is bright, tasty and super easy)
- Plus get more appetizer recipes in the archives.
- 1 beet beetroot, medium
- 2 tablespoon chopped walnuts approx
- 1 handful arugula rocket (or 2 small handfuls)
For orange vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or champagne vinegar
- ½ orange zest ie zest from ½ orange
- 2 tablespoon orange juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon maple syrup (could also use honey)
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch pepper
Roasting beet (can be done ahead)
- Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.
- Trim any greens/stems from the beet/beetroot and scrub well, but leave the skin on. Wrap the beet tightly in foil and place in an oven dish then roast until tender to a knifepoint - this can take anywhere from around 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes, so start checking after about 45 minutes.
- Once the beet is cooked through, remove from the oven and set aside to cool. If making ahead, once cool, you can store the beet in the foil in the fridge for a couple days.
To make salad
- Warm a small skillet/frying pan over a medium heat. Don't add any oil or butter. Add the walnuts and toast for around 5 minutes until they smell a little nutty and the pieces of walnut are starting to gently brown but not burn. Set aside (can also be done ahead).
- Remove the skin from the beet, but leave the stem end so that you have something to hold. It should peel easily once you get it started with a knife. Be aware that beet can stain, so you may want to wear gloves and use board/plate that doesn't take in the color.
- Use either a mandolin or a wide vegetable peeler to peel wafer thin slices from the beet, taking care in how you use them. I prefer to place the slices on a separate plate first so I can then arrange on serving plates without getting excess juice etc all over.
- Place all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small jar or bowl and either shake or whisk them together to emulsify. Check the flavor is to your taste, and if needed, add a little extra maple syrup to sweeten, or make other adjustments.
- Place the arugula in a small bowl and toss with some of the vinaigrette so it is evenly coated.
- Arrange slices of the beet on two serving plates so that the slices are slightly overlapping. Place some of the arugula to one side of each plate then sprinkle over the toasted walnuts. Drizzle over some of the vinaigrette and serve.
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