I find it impossible to resist beets. Their colors are magnificent – it’s a miracle that nature can provide something edible that is so vibrantly hued. With the vivid color, of course, comes nutrients. Beets are a nutritional powerhouse, rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins and beta-carotene. I purchased these beets at the farmers’ market, without knowing how I would prepare them. I was simply happy looking at them.
Prompted by a batch of fluffy ricotta in my fridge, I decided to layer the yellow beets with the cheese as a riff on lasagna, with the beet slices replacing the lasagna sheets. Yellow beets are milder in flavor than red beets, and their nutty, buttery flavor wouldn’t overpower the cheese. I also feared the red beets would completely saturate the dish with their magenta color, which, while lovely to look, threatened to irrevocably tint my pristine ricotta. This is a visually motivated dish.
Roasted Yellow Beet and Ricotta Tian
Makes 1 – 8 inch square tian or 4 individual ramekins
1 1/2 pounds yellow beets (4 medium or 8 small)
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 cup fresh ricotta
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup finely shredded basil leaves, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 F. Trim and peel beets. Slice very thinly crosswise with a mandoline or knife. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beet slices. Cook until tender but firm, about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Blot dry with a kitchen towel. Place in a bowl and toss with juice of 1/2 lemon.
Combine lemon zest, ricotta, garlic, basil, 1/4 cup pecorino cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper in a bowl.
Arrange beets in one layer, slightly overlapping, in an earthenware or gratin dish. Smear some of the ricotta over the beets. Repeat layering process, finishing with ricotta on the top. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons pecorino cheese. Bake until beets are tender and cheese is bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve garnished with fresh basil leaves.