After last month’s successful foray into pickling shrimp, I recently tried my hand at pickling beets. When I was in middle school, I’d eat store-bought sliced pickled beets straight out of the jar, so it seemed like a logical next step. And beets bring some much-needed color to contrast with the browns and yellows of the hearty winter dishes I’ve been making lately. These 5-inch tarts have apple slices, pickled beets, and shredded cheese layered on top of flaky puff pastry.
The first time I experimented with this recipe, I used very small raw beets and let them cook through in the oven while the tart baked, which didn’t work at all. The second time I roasted the beets before slicing them and nesting them between the apples. Again, I wasn’t very successful. Each time I bit into a beet slice, its heavy earthiness clashed with the blended flavors of the cheddar and apple. I found myself pushing little slices of beets to the edge of my plate, picking them off the tart because they just didn’t fit well into the big picture. For my third attempt I wanted to balance the flavor of the beets, so I decided to pickle them for a few days before making the tarts. For my base, I turned to the pickled shrimp recipe I made last month, but I took out all the seafood seasoning. Because I was looking to mellow the earthy flavors, I added quite a bit more acidity: I upped the cider vinegar to 1/3 cup, increased the lemon juice to 4 Tablespoons, and cut way back on the olive oil. And finally, success. After I poured off the pickling juice, I kept the beets in the jar in the fridge, plucking slices out throughout the day to nibble.
Because I had both the prepared pastry crusts and the pickled beets already on hand, this turned into the kind of dish that I’d pull together as a quick dinner with a side salad or an after work snack to take the edge off before starting in to the dinner prep for the night. I used a 5-inch round cutter to prepare the puff pastry and refroze the individual crusts between layers of parchment paper. Layering the ingredients on top of the crust takes less than five minutes, and the tarts themselves bake for about 25 minutes.
Having a small jar or bowl of pickled beets might become something of a staple in my house. There’s a million other things you can do with them (besides eat them straight out of the jar). Next up, I’m thinking I’ll mix pickled beet slices with crumbled goat cheese, add them to salads, or top a wintry crostini or endive slice with them.
2 medium beets
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil + more for roasting
1/2 small red onion, sliced
1) Roast the beets: Heat the oven to 450-degrees and poke a few small holes in the beets with the tines of a fork. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil (about 1 Tablespoon). Cook for 45 min to an hour, until the beets are done. You’ll be able to stick a fork in the center and easily remove it. Allow the beets to cool slightly, then remove their skins. Slice thinly and cut into even-sized chunks.
2) Prepare the pickling juice: Combine cider vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil together in a bowl or measuring cup with a spout. Whisk together thoroughly. Thinly slice the red onion.
3) Layer the beets and onion slices in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour the pickling juice over the beets. Refrigerate for at least 2 days. Pour off pickling juice and discard red onions before using. Beets can be stored in the refrigerator, out of the pickling brine for future use.
Apple, Cheddar, and Pickled Beet Tarts
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food
Makes 4 tarts
1 package frozen puff pastry
1 apple (I prefer crispy red varieties)
2-3 slices pickled beets per tart (recipe above)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1) Heat the oven to 450-degrees. Allow the puff pastry to come to room temperature for about 15 minutes. Using a 5-inch round cutter, cut out as many individual tart crusts as the puff pastry allows (usually at least 4). Alternately, you can make square tarts without wasting any pastry dough by using a knife to cut evenly-sized sections of the dough. Store unused tart crusts in the freezer, tightly wrapped in plastic with layers of parchment in between each crust.
2) Cut the apple in half and remove the seeds, core, and stem. Cut 4-6 thin slices for each tart. Wrap any unused apple in plastic wrap and store in the fridge (or consume raw apple slices for a snack).
3) Assemble tarts: Divide half the cheddar cheese between each of the four pastry crusts. Layer with the apple slices and beet slices, tucking the beets in between the apples. Top with the remaining shredded cheese.
4) Bake for about 20 minutes. Check for doneness. The tart crust should be flaky and well-browned, and the cheese should be melted with some brown color. Neither the crust nor the cheese should be overly dark. Bake in 5 minute intervals if the tarts require more time. Serve immediately.