A Chioggia beet, cut through the center, reveals a pattern of concentric light-red and white rings. The novel color combination and sweet taste of Chioggias makes this heirloom beet a favorite for salads and side dishes that even picky eaters can appreciate. Folate-rich and low in calories, these beets are a flavorful source of fiber. Fresh-picked, small Chioggia beets arrive at farmers market stalls beginning in early summer, just in time to brighten the outdoor cooking season. Available year-round at grocery stores with a robust produce department, larger-sized Chioggia beets may be prepared using standard stove-top and oven-cooking methods.
Cut the leaves off Chioggias, leaving 1 to 2 inches of the stem and all of the root attached to each beet. Rinse the beets under running water, rubbing them with a soft vegetable brush to remove dirt and grit without puncturing the beets' skin.
Place the Chioggias in a cooking pot. Add water to a level of 1 inch over the top of the beets. Pour 1 to 2 tsp. of lemon juice or vinegar into the water for to keep the beet colors bright.
Cook the beets on high heat until the water boils, then turn the heat to "Medium" and allow the beets to simmer for 25 to 35 minutes for medium-sized beets and for 40 to 50 minutes for larger beets. Test the beets with the tip of a sharp knife; when they are tender, drain the hot water, fill the pan with cold water and ice cubes, and allow the beets to cool for five to 10 minutes.
Peel the cooled beets by rubbing each one with a paper towel to pull away the outer skin. Grasp the stem with one hand and slice off the root end with a knife held in the other hand. Continue slicing the beets in 1/3-inch-thick circles to display the Chioggia beets' two-toned coloring when serving them.
Prepare Chioggia beets for oven roasting by removing all but 1 inch of the leafy stems. Leave the roots uncut to prevent the juice from seeping out during the cooking process. Wash the beets gently under running water.
Place the beets in a single layer in a foil-lined baking pan. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tbsp. of water over the beets.
Roast the beets in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 to 60 minutes, depending on their size. Check that the beets are soft by inserting the tip of a sharp knife into the largest beet. If it is still hard in the center, cook the beets for another 10 to 15 minutes and test again.
Cool the beets at room temperature. Cut off the stem and root ends. Peel the beets with a sharp knife while wearing disposable gloves to protect your hands from staining, or rub the skin off of the beets with a paper towel. Slice the Chioggia beets or cut them into wedges to show off their color pattern.
Cut cooked, peeled Chioggia beets into wedges measuring no more than 1 1/2 inches at their thickest point.
Drizzle olive oil over the cut beets. Add fresh-ground black pepper and a pinch of salt, if desired. Mix gently to coat the beets.
Set the coated beet wedges on a grill over medium heat. Cook them for five to six minutes, turning once or twice to allow the beet sections to warm through and develop light golden-brown grill-hash marks.
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Depending on soil and growing conditions, Chioggia beets may have a light orange color on the upper part near the stem, which enhances their colorful, attractive appearance on the plate. Save the stems and leafy tops of Chioggia beets to cook them by steaming or sauteing them.
Avoid extra-large Chioggia beets -- approximately baseball-sized or larger -- as these may have a woody or pithy texture due to their age, as well as indistinguishable inner red and white rings.