Monday, November 24, 2008

Beet Salad

My husband probably would have been pleased had the middle schoolers mentioned in yesterday’s post would have consumed every last raw beet. They did not. So once again, I found myself flipping through cookbooks to find a way to help my husband enjoy beets. He thinks, "They taste like dirt.” He has a point. But I might call the same flavor “earthy.”

I’ve been re-reading Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte. And it was therein that yesterday I found the beet recipe. I’d already been to the store once in the day. I was not going to go again. So I improvised the beet recipe; a lot. The resulting salad contained bright lemon juice and ginger flavors that made one sit up and take notice. Sweet apple mellowed the earthiness. I added a handful of bitter celery leaves to add contrast. My husband took a whole heaping spoonful.

I served the beet salad to compliment our favorite Sunday night supper of cheese, whole grain bread and a lovely libation. I’m not sure if this supper tastes so delicious because it’s so simple or because it’s slightly indulgent because it offers an opportunity to savor several American artisanal cheeses on one plate. There are hundreds of hand- or artisanally-made American cheeses now. Our fridge always contains a few of these fine cheeses. And in fact, I overstocked a bit at the last farmer’s market of the season.

Last night’s supper was rich in aromas and flavors. On our plates were Sartori’s Bellavitan Reserve (rich, earthy, with a crumbly texture of Cheddar aged for a couple months), award-winning Marieke Gouda (very nutty and rich, sweet but not caramely) and because I must have third contrasting cheese BelGioioso’s Gorgonzola (very dry and crumbly, also earthy). The apple wine – HalloWine from Illinois River Winery – was yummy and perfect for the earthy beet salad and the earthy cheeses and because it was a sweet and quite spicy, delightful with the blue.

Beets, Apples and Ginger Salad
(Adapted from Amanda Hesser)
Makes 2-3 servings

I love the contrasts of flavor in this salad: earthy beets, bitter celery fronds, sour lemon juice, sugar, crunchy salt and smooth olive oil.

10 baby beets, washed (remove and reserve any micro-beet greens that may have sprouted out of the tops should your beets have been kept in the garage during the recent warm days)
2 large apples (I used Gala), cored and sliced thinly
1 teaspoon of finely diced ginger (next time I’ll use a little more)
Celery leaf fronds
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1-2 teaspoons raw turbinado sugar
Juice of half a lemon
1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Sea salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 °. Wrap each slightly damp (from being washed) beet in a square of aluminum foil (about 6” X 6”). Roast beets for about 35-45 minutes or until tender. (While the beets are roasting, make the dressing so flavors can meld and sugar can mostly dissolve.) Remove beets from oven and unwrap – being careful not to get burned by the steam. Using a paper towel, rub each beet to remove the skin. Cut into 1/2 –inch dice.
2. Combine the beets, apples, ginger and celery fronds in a serving bowl.
3. To make the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, mustard, sea salt and pepper. Vigorously whisk the dressing while slowly pouring in the olive oil. Pour dressing over the beet mixture, cover and let set for as long as possible until dinner time, up to 2 hours.

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