Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

When I was a little girl, each summer my mom canned quart after quart of pickled beets. I loved them and once sat down at the kitchen table in that hot, steamy kitchen and ate a whole quart of them before she could get them canned. When I went to school, the cafeteria offered something called Harvard Beets. When I bit into one, I found it disgusting. These beets weren't pickled at all--just boiled to death, diced and doused with butter (or more likely margarine). After discovering Harvard Beets, I avoided any beet other than my mom's.

But, as a grown-up, I discovered roasted beets--a whole different thing. Roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper, they retain their jeweled colors and the flavor is unbelievable! Next to my mom's pickled beets, these are the best.

So, I love this salad. While I've had it in restaurants, I like my version: crispy, crunchy, sweet walnuts, smooth goat cheese, roasted red and golden beets, on a bed of fresh spring greens with a simple vinaigrette. Yum! Here's how I do it:

Roasted Beets
3 large or 4 medium or small red beets
3 large or 4 medium or small golden beets
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut off beet greens, leaving about an inch at the top and do not cut off any straggly root or peel the beets. This will ensure that the color doesn't drain out of the beets while cooking. Scrub beets and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Wrap the red beets and golden beets separately into foil packets. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake for anywhere from 20 minutes (for new, small beets) to 1 hour (for larger beets). Check with a fork to make certain they are tender but not mushy. Peel, dice and place into separate containers and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Sweetened Walnuts
3/4 cup walnut pieces
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place all three ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Strain walnuts and spread on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Cool and store in a container for up to 1 week.

Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup good olive oil (first cold pressed)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients in a jar with tight fitting lid and shake until mixed. Taste on a piece of lettuce and adjust ingredients as you like.

To compose the salad:
This can make up to 4 main-course salads

box or large bag of spring greens
goat cheese (4 ounces)
Roasted beets
Sweetened walnuts

Put spring greens into a bowl and toss with a bit of vinaigrette. Then, place a bed of the greens on each plate. Sprinkle each with cheese, beets, and walnuts. Serve with extra vinaigrette. With a crusty baguette, this makes a fine meal!

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