There was one thing that as a Polish national I could not not notice in Paris during my recent visit. It was not present there when years ago I lived in Geneva and did my weekly food shopping just a few miles on the other side of the border in the neighboring France. I mean the popularity of beets in the French cuisine.
I was able to buy beets in Geneva or France but now you could buy them in every vegetable market in Paris and even such snobbish food stores as la Grande Epicerie de Paris, and I was shocked to see the beets having such a prominent place at the shelves among salads, asparagus, and the so-popular-in-France zucchini. Moreover, in the fresh food sections of any market a beet salad was one of the three typical ready made salads next to the traditional celery root and carrot remoulade.
I guess although beets are not very characteristic for the French cuisine, French consumers, being sensitive to a tasty and healthy food, recognized the value of the beets. That makes me very proud, as I consider them Polish speciality.
Not only did I see people eating beets in salads for lunch, but one of the best restaurants in a five star Champs Elysées Plaza hotel, its chef Vincent Boucher serves a sophisticated starter made from beets, blackberries, and fresh white cheese (fromage frais aka as fromage blanc) and ricotta. I was so impressed with this combination that I decided to reproduce this dish. Unfortunately, the original "fromage blanc" is not available in the US. You can achieve something similar by straining plain yogurt over night on a cheese cloth. I made it using Greek yogurt (without straining it), because it has similar sourness and consistency as "fromage blanc". I also added lemon juice and made some changes, as a beet specialist by birth.
Here is my version of this old Polish vegetable prepared the French way.
Beet and Cheese Duo
6 medium beets, plus extra one small for decoration,
4 tbsp cream cheese, preferably fresh, or whipped,
2 garlic cloves, minced,
6 tbsp fromage blanc or Greek yogurt,
half a box of chopped chives,
1 tbsp lemon juice,
salt and pepper,
1. Peel beets, cut into small cubes and cook in salted water for 6-8 minutes. Drain and cool completely.
2. Place beets in a food processor and puree them coarsely, but stop before they turn completely mushy.
3. Transfer the beets to a medium bowl, add salt and pepper, season with cumin and lemon. Add two tbsp of fromage blanc or Greek yogurt and mix well.
4. Chop blueberries and fold into the beets.
5. Prepare 6 small glass dishes. Divide equally the beet mixture among glasses and chill them in a fridge for 1/2 hour.
6. In small bowl combine cream cheese, fromage blanc (or Greek yogurt), garlic, salt, pepper, and chives.
7. Take out the containers with beets and top each portion with a layer of the cheese mixture. Chill again for a minimum of 2 hours.
8. Cut the remaining small beet julienne and put on top of each glass.
9. Serve beet duos with fresh baguette.