Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Glorious Beet

Years ago, supporting Hippocrates exhortation that our medicine should be our food and our food our medicine, I read that many of the foods that supply our daily needs resemble the body part they are intended to support. Beets, the book said, are red and the nutrients provided are extremely good for our blood. Bravo. Yet beets, on the whole (or even sliced), have had a bad rap. As kids, many of us ate those nearly rock hard, deep maroon, bitter tasting lumps from a can, foisted on us by a well meaning parent who told us how good they were for us. A sure sign they must taste terrible. Remember, they said that about cod liver oil, too!

But of late, I've noticed in the trendy food magazines, that top chefs are using beets, both red and yellow with more frequency and with more imagination than just as a side dish served warm or pickled.

Dining at the Culinary Institute last Fall, I chose a roasted beet salad on mixed wild greens with a simple vinaigrette and dabs of goat cheese as a starter and was so delighted with the combination that when I had guests in for dinner in December, I tried my hand at reproducing those flavors. It was a big hit with the 30 to 40 year old crowd who were surprised to find that the beet was mild and sweet. The oven roasting had brought out a depth of flavor from the carmelization of the natural sugar in the beets giving the salad that je ne sais quois that puts a dish a little over the top.

I was treated to dinner this past Wednesday at the posh new eating place in College Park, Adair's. Once again, I found the lowly beet among the featured items on the salad menu, this time combined with the yellow beet, haricort verts and a bed of frizee with a luscious mayo based dressing, tangy and a bit salty, nicely off-setting the mild flavor of the beets. Such a tongue pleasing experience that I snatched up a lovely bunch of small beets with fresh greens still attached when I shopped on Thursday. I washed and cooked the greens immediately for my lunch and the beets are waiting to be roasted to star in a salad for Sunday dinner. Here's my rendition of roasted beet salad with goat cheese. Hope you'll try it and if you do, let me know how you like it.

Roasted Beet Salad
2 tsp finely chopped shallots
4 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
2 medium beets or 4 small ones
2 cups mixed wild greens
2 cups torn green leaf or romaine lettuce
1/4 cup goat cheese
Place vinaigrette ingredients in blender to combine. Taste for salt & pepper.
Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and roast in 350 oven until tender, about 1 hour.
When beets are cool enough to handle, peel and slice or cut into wedges then toss with half the dressing. In another bowl, toss the washed and dried greens with the remaining dressing. Arrange the greens on individual salad plates, divide the beets evenly on each serving then crumble the goat cheese over each salad. Serves 4

No comments: