YIELD: about 16 appetizers

For the Basil Oil:
1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup olive oil
lemon zest
chives, as needed, chopped

2 lbs. red beets, medium sized, scrubbed clean, green tops removed
olive oil, as needed
salt, to taste
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsps. sugar
1 tsp. grated orange zest
freshly ground black pepper

1. Blanch basil in medium saucepan of boiling water 10 seconds. Drain. Rinse under cold water. Pat basil dry with paper towels. Transfer to blender. Add oil; puree until smooth. Transfer to small bowl and season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 3 days ahead) Cover and chill. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before using.
2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place the beets in the pan. Rub olive oil over the beets, and sprinkle with salt. Cover the beets with another sheet of aluminum foil. Roast for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the beets and how old they are.
3. After 1 hour, test every fifteen minutes by poking a beet with the tines of a fork. Once the fork tines go in easily, the beets are tender and cooked. Remove from the oven.
4. After the beets have cooled, but are still warm to the touch, peel off the outer skins and discard. Cut the beets into slices about ¼ inch thick and then dice.
5. Let cool and drizzle with basil oil, top with zest and chives.

Recipe: Barbara Sieger, assistant director of catering, Vanderbilt Campus Dining, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN