Every year for Valentine’s Day, I incorporate a heart theme into at least one meal for my Diverse Little Eater and my husband. Last year it was these heart-shaped hard boiled eggs, which are now a tradition in our house! This year, I couldn’t resist the thought of making heart beets (ha ha!) for my heart throbs!
I bought some beautiful Cylindra beets at the farmer’s market, and then remembered that swiss chard is related to beets. There was a beautiful bunch of rainbow chard available too, so they went in my bag. I thought the rainbow colors would complement the red heart beets.
So, here are the edible Valentines I made for my family this year!
Beets have been consumed for ages. They were a popular food with the Ancient Romans and Greeks, but mostly the leaves were eaten. Eventually, either in Germany or Italy, the roots were cultivated for consumption. Early beet roots, first recorded in 1542, were more like parsnips in shape. Eventually beet roots became a staple in Northern Europe since they could be grown year round. Finally, the beet root became known as a source of sucrose, and today they account for 20% of the sugar produced worldwide.
Did you know that beets contain betalains? What are betalains??? They are antioxidants that make the beets red, and are known for their anticancer properties. Beets are also full of other antioxidants, folic acid, potassium, and fiber. To top it all, the Ancient Romans and Greeks considered them to be an aphrodisiac! There is some science that backs up this claim, so they may just be the perfect Valentine’s Day food!
Happy Valentines Day!
- Beets – any variety (I used the Cylinda variety that are shaped like sweet potatoes, but the chiogga ones would be particularly pretty)
- Swiss Chard (I used rainbow chard for aesthetics)
- Shallot (one bulb)
- Garlic (one clove)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Goat cheese (any type, a flavored one would also be good like herb or pepper- flavored)
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
- Scrub the beets well to wash off all dirt.
- Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and put on a tray to collect any red juices that come out when cooking.
- Cook the beets in the oven at 350F/278C for about 30 minutes. This part of the process is not very strict. On the day that I cooked my beets, I turned the oven off and left the beets in the oven until later that evening. Just be sure they are cooked through and you can easily slip a knife or fork into them.
- Allow the beets to cool, and peel them.
- You can now cut the beets in disks about 1/2 inch or 1.5 cm thick.
- Use a cookie cutter (metal may work best) that has a deep enough side to cut the beets into your desired shape. I used a series of heart-shaped cookie cutters so I could accommodate the size of the disk to the proper heart size.
- I saved the heart outlines and the scraps for the salad. You can use the shape to make stuffed heart shaped salads, or you can cut them up into small chunks with the scraps. Diverse Little Eater said, “Oh Mom you used the scraps in the salad too – good idea!”
- Set aside the beet shapes and scraps in covered bowls in the fridge. You can leave them for up to 3 days if you want to prepare ahead of time.
- Wash the swiss chard and cut the dry ends off the stems.
- I washed my chard in the morning and placed it in a cup of water to save for later in the day. It made a pretty display on my windowsill.
- When you are ready, remove the chard stems from the leaves and chop both stems and leaves separately. The leaves I cut into thin 1-2 inch strips.
- Thinly slice a shallot bulb and crush and chop one garlic clove.
- In a pan (I used cast iron), heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil on medium high heat.
- Once hot, add the shallot.
- When the shallot becomes transparent, add the chard stems and sauté to coat with the oil.
- After about 2 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Finally, add the chard leaves, rotating in the pan every 30 seconds until all of the chard is wilted. Do not over cook the chard.
- Remove the chard mixture from the heat and allow to cool.
- Once cool, add salt and pepper to taste (I waited to add the salt until this step because otherwise the leaves will release their water while cooking).
- Assemble the beats and chard as you like. Have fun making different designs!
- Put the beets below the chard:
- Crumble goat cheese on top of the arrangement.
- Drizzle the salad with a good balsamic vinegar.
Use the cutout hearts to make heart beet appetizer bites!