Sunday, April 1, 2012

ChezCindy: Give Beets a Chance

I grew up thinking beets came from a can.  Who ate purple food that was smelly and weird-looking?  Well my mother did.  (She ate beef tongue too.  Pretty hip for back then.)  She didn't try to convince us to eat beets, but we were aware of their existence.  Later in life, traveling in Carmel, California, I had beets as part of a salad in a restaurant that would become one of our favorite restaurants, Casanova.  I probably pushed them around on the plate, and maybe ate one by accident.  I'm sure I decided this is what beets taste like in California.  Everything tastes good in California on vacation.  Right?
It was much later in life that I decided to try cooking beets for myself.  I did some research.  Got purple stained hands while trying to peel the beets.  Roasted them in the oven.  Added them to a salad.  Hmmm... not quite the same as Casanova.  I gave up for a few more years.  Honestly, it took a few unsuccessful attempts to figure out how to cook beets and more importantly, how to add them to a salad that is delicious.
There is wonderful produce in our markets now.  Maybe that is part of my new success.  You can find organic beets of many colors.  There are the traditional purple, but I like the orange ones.  They tend to be a little sweeter and milder in taste. Beets partner well with cheese, especially soft goat cheese, dried dates and figs, and walnuts.  Add greens and a champagne vinaigrette, and you have a delicious salad.  Here is what I have come up with. 

Roasted Beets
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash the beets to remove any remaining soil.  Cut off the tops and the root ends.  Cut the beets into quarters or halves for the larger size beets.  Working with a large piece of heavy duty foil, place the beets in the center.  Pull up the sides of the foil to contain the beets, drizzle with olive oil, (you can use walnut oil or canola oil), sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Close up the sides of the foil and seal to make a small packet.  Place the packet on a baking tray with sides, roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Carefully open the packet, avoiding the steam heat that will escape, using a small knife, test for doneness by inserting the knife into a beet.  It should feel tender, but not mushy, through to the center.  Allow the beets to cool.  Once cool, remove the skins.  Cut into smaller pieces.  

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Dates, Walnuts, with Champagne Vinaigrette
Mixed greens
Roasted beets, cut into small pieces
Goat cheese crumbled into small pieces
Toasted walnuts

Champagne Vinaigrette
1 scant tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 scant tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 grinds of black pepper
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil

Add the Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper to a medium sized bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Add the vinegar, whisk to combine.  Slowly add the oil, drizzling while whisking the contents quickly.  (wrap a kitchen towel around the base of the bowl to keep it from spinning)  Salad dressing can be stored in a squeeze bottle or a small container for about a week. 

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