Ever since I acquired or was given a beautiful book in the mid-1990’s about Argentinian Estancias or massive haciendas with their spectacular homes, vistas and lifestyles, I have been enamored with the slow, feudal and stately concept of a hacienda lifestyle. It’s a fleeting fancy, and the reality is I would prefer a nice terraced penthouse cooperative on Fifth Avenue, but I do like the idea of a hacienda, without all the maintenance and staffing issues (not to mention likely land reform). In the May, 2013 issue of Food & Wine, there was an article on the Vik couple, he a megajillionaire financier from New York City (probably with a beautiful apartment there), with a huge collection of art, and an 11,000 acre Chilean property turned vineyard and hotel. They also have properties in Uruguay and elsewhere. They featured a few of the recipes enjoyed while visiting their little spot of land in South America, and I lapped it all up. :) Down to the wonderful hats they all seemed to wear at their outdoor barbecues, soft cashmere sweaters draped over their shoulders as they might do strolling Madison avenue. My panama hat is lonely in it’s box, there aren’t too many places to wear it to these days in Manila… At any rate, one of the recipes, for a rustic dish of smashed beets, caught my eye and we had most of the ingredients in the house, so I set out to try and cook it…
The recipe, credited to Marcelo Betancourt (are there a lot of Betancourt families in South America?), is here, and I pretty much followed it as much as I could. I just had problems smashing the beets so that they would retain a circular shape, all of our beets broke into pieces. But the texture, intensity and variety of flavors, the visual burst of colors all made for an extremely unusual and surprisingly well-liked appetizer with some sliced pieces of french bread. If you are looking for something new to do with beets, you may want to try the recipe.
The sweet soft roasted garlic spread on a piece of bread and topped with the earthy, flavorful beets and a touch or two of greens for texture and visual appeal made for a very luxurious feeling appetizer. I suppose this could be part of the main meal as well. But I doubt I could look as cool as the guests in the magazine spread, as smashing the beats wasn’t so easy… and one large one jumped off the chopping board and splatted right onto my worn shorts. If they had been linen pants, a fine belt and shoes and the beet splattered all of them, I wouldn’t have been in good humor for dinner. :)