beet the heat

Summer blew in faster than gale force winds! It seems like we were just sipping mint juleps for the derby, and now we’re lighting citronella candles next to the BBQ. I love summer weather, but can’t say I enjoy cooking in the heat (and most kitchens in southern CA don’t have A/C). Every June I create new recipes requiring less oven time (a.k.a. sweating-my-face-off time). This change-in-season marks the perfect opportunity to cool things down.

I decided on caprese salad stacks—a household favorite—using vine-ripened summer tomatoes & fresh basil.  Sounds perfect! Well, until I remembered my garden was successfully defoliated by an army of little green caterpillars—you know who you are! Avoiding caterpillar homicide (and a second trip to the store), I required something else to fill our salad void. Then I noticed the variety of fresh beets in my fridge, which are usually reserved for juicing during the week. Problem solved!

Our summer caprese would be built on layers of sliced beets, fresh mozzarella, and baby arugula. I topped things off with a drizzle of white balsamic, extra virgin olive oil, orange zest, micro greens, and lemon-infused sea salt flakes (you know just to be fancy). All dressed-up & colorful, these earthy—and underrated—beauties were a hit.

Let’s beet-the-heat with some layers:

5 from 1 reviews
Beet Caprese Salad Stacks
A delightfully light version of caprese salad, using fresh beets, arugula & citrus! This is a perfect appetizer for a summer night, or any time of day.
Serves: 3 large beets yield ~3 stacks
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
What to get:
  • 1 raw red beet (large, greens removed, 1 slice/stack)
  • 1 raw golden beet (large, greens removed, 1 slice/stack)
  • 1 raw striped beet (large, greens removed, 1 slice/stack, can be another variety)
  • 2 slices fresh mozzarella/stack (sliced thickly in ~1/2 inch rounds)
  • ~1/4 cup baby arugula leaves/stack (rinsed & dry, stems removed)
  • ~1/4 tsp fresh tangerine zest/stack (topping)
  • 1 squeeze of tangerine juice/stack (from small wedge of zested tangerine, topping)
  • pinch of micro greens (optional garnish)
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil/stack (EVOO)
  • drizzle of white balsamic vinegar/stack (or regular balsamic)
  • sprinkle of sea salt (I used lemon-infused sea salt flakes from Sur La Table)
  • ground black pepper (optional)
What to do:
  1. In steamer basket on stove, steam the whole, raw, unpeeled beets until mostly tender when tested with a fork or toothpick (depending how large, this may take 30-45 mins).
  2. Immediately cool beets in a bowl of ice water, drain & while still warm to touch, simply remove skins by running hand over exterior of beets under running water (discard peels).
  3. Let beet roots cool completely and slice thickly (~1/2 inch slices) you will want to use larger middle slices for stacks & will use 3 slices (one of each variety) per stack.
  4. Slice fresh ball or log of mozzarella (~1/2 inch slices) 2 slices/stack.
Layer Stacks (layers should be rounded & line-up somewhat vertically):
  1. On plate for serving place 1st beet slice (I went with striped variety).
  2. Next layer of sliced buffalo mozzarella.
  3. Lightly sprinkle with sea salt (light ground black pepper, optional).
  4. Follow with thin layer of baby arugula (several leaves, or to your preference),
  5. Add 2nd (middle) beet layer (I chose golden),
  6. 2nd slice of mozzarella.
  7. Thin layer of arugula (to taste).
  8. Top with 3rd & final beet slice (I chose red).
  9. Finish with small pinch of micro greens (optional).
  10. Drizzle stack with small amount of EVOO, white balsamic vinegar, and small sprinkle of tangerine zest.
  11. Next squeeze small amount of tangerine juice (from a small segment).
  12. Finish with sprinkle of sea salt (I chose lemon-infused sea salt flakes).
30 min cook time listed is just the approximate time for steaming & cooling the beets. Stacks themselves, only takes 5 mins to make! (You can pre-steam the beets and store in refrigerator ahead of time).You can also use several or just one variety of beets, depending on availability. When slicing beets, use the largest diameter (middle slices) for making stacks, so size stays consistent—I save the smaller slices for separate dish or salad!

This only takes 5 minutes to assemble (if you pre-steam the beets), and frankly that’s faster than I can find my keys on most days. I love the bright acidity a little orange zest brings to the earthiness of these beet varieties. The red roots are the strongest in flavor, and the striped & golden were milder. I chose white balsamic vinegar because it’s a little lighter than the standard variety I use for dressings. Regular sea salt will work well, but I’m infatuated with these Artisan Lemon Sea Salt Flakes for finishing. Very subtle, and the perfect texture for topping a cold dish or salad. Aside from the fact this is ridiculously easy and beets are super healthy, if it keeps your kitchen cooler—it’s a winner!

Beet Caprese stack - 072

Hope you enjoy these one night soon—stay cool out there!

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Thank you for visiting the dinnervine! In the words of Julia Child, "People who love to eat, are always the best people," and I couldn't agree more. I hope you enjoy these dishes as much as I did making them. Here's to creating new recipes and memories with friends & family, cheers! 

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