Beets are a nutritional powerhouse |

Beets are a nutritional powerhouse

Special to the Daily/Nelson Kunkel

In 2004 Mike Regrut, executive chef of The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa, met Chris LaVenture, a horticultural specialist. Neither knew it was the beginning of a booming business. LaVenture, who with her husband, Tom, owns a local picture framing business, grew vegetables and herbs on their land in Gypsum. Regrut, then executive chef of Larkspur Restaurant in Vail, was intrigued by the opportunity to include truly local produce on his menu.Regrut found himself visiting the Gypsum farm several times a week and purchased any ripe produce LaVenture had not promised to friends for Larkspur. Before long the two were conspiring what to plant the coming season and how much Larkspur would be able to use. Within a few years the support of Larkspur enabled LaVenture to build a greenhouse and grow her crops year round. As the farm has grown, so have the businesses of Thomas Salamunovich, who recently opened Avondale in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa. The Salamunovich restaurants have an exclusive arrangement with LaVenture Farms, which allows a daily harvest on its menus.One of the star crops of this season is the gnarly root vegetable, beets. Different varieties, including sugar and chiogga, have made their way onto Larkspurs and Avondales menus as a sweet and healthful addition to salads. A great source of Vitamins A, B and C, beets supply calcium, iron, potassium and fiber. A super sweet flavor with only 30 calories per half cup, beets are a nutritional powerhouse.Simple to prepare, beets can be eaten cooked or raw. Grate raw beets into salads for deep purple color. Roast beets along with other root veggies like carrots and parsnips to add a new flavor dimension. Steam the leaves with other greens like spinach, chard or mustard to add complexity. Or let roasted beets stand alone, just seasoned with garlic and/or ginger as these strong flavors complement each other well.Avondales Executive Chef Jeremy Kittelson offers his favorite use of beets in a simple salad combining smoked salmon (or trout), hazelnuts and orange. The smoky salmon balances the sweet beets and tangy citrus while hazelnuts add a great texture, Kittelson said. By understanding the elements, you can create your own substitutions.Or, even easier, make the traditional Swedish pickled beets and serve as a cold side dish to any seafood meal.

1 orange4 each, red, yellow and chioga beets1 cup hazelnuts2 cups mixed greens (rocket, frisee and watercress create nice texture)1⁄2 cup fresh orange juice11⁄2 cups extra-virgin olive oil1 tablespoon Dijon mustard1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar1 pound smoked salmonPeel the orange. Cut between the veins of the fruit to yield segments without pith. Reserve juice for vinaigrette. Simmer the beets separately about 25 to 30 minutes each, until soft. Let cool and remove skins with a towel. Toast hazelnuts in a 350-degree oven until brown and fragrant. Make the vinaigrette by whisking orange juice, olive oil, mustard and vinegar. Assemble all components in a salad bowl, including flaked salmon pieces. Toss with vinaigrette. Serves 4.

2 pounds cooked, cooled beets3 cups water2 cups sugar1 cup vinegar1 onion, sliced1 carrot, sliced5 black peppercorns2 bay leaves2 allspice berriesCombine all ingredients except beets and bring to a boil. Pour over cooked, sliced beets. Refrigerate 24 hours. Serve as a side dish, traditionally with seafood.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Restaurant Avondale. Avondale recently opened in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon. The restaurant features a West Coast inspired, seasonal menu and the chefs use time-honored cooking methods, such as slow roasting and braising, to create simple dishes rich in flavor. The wine program focuses on small production wines to compliment the straightforward cuisine. For more information, visit

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