October 8, 2014

Recipe: Spicy Beet Salad - Photo by Judith Hausman (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

Beets are generous vegetables—they gift us twice. The sweet healthy greens become part of the mixed sauté I cook up with chard, Asian greens and softer kales. When I dig up the roots, I keep the greens handy for a variety of recipes and salads.

I roast the beautiful beet roots almost routinely. If the oven is set between between 300 and 400 degrees F for another dish, I’ll quickly wrap the beets I have on hand quickly in foil and pop them in the oven, too. After 30 to 40 minutes, depending on their size and the oven temperature, they’re soft. Once cool, I put them in the fridge until I’m ready to use them. When the time comes and enough beets have accumulated, I rub off the skins easily and less messily than peeling them raw. Then I just slice the beets into the dish—most often a classic salad of tender greens, goat cheese and standard vinaigrette.

However, I’ve been looking for another way to showcase the hefty bunches of yellow, candy-striped and deep-red beets showing up in my CSA share, so I’ve been fixing up the salad recipe below. I love its balance of super-sweet beets with tart pomegranate and spicy chilies. At the same time a handful of walnuts (or use hazelnuts or even almonds) and a little nut oil underscores their earthiness. If you can’t find concentrated pomegranate or tamarind syrup, just use the more widely available pomegranate or tamarind juices, to taste. Nut oils can be expensive and fragile, but a few tablespoons go a long way. Keep these oils in the refrigerator to extend their freshness.

I used soft arugula for the greens here, but watercress will also contribute crunch and another balancing flavor. Baby lettuces have the right texture and colors but will add only subtle flavor. Don’t substitute onion for the scallions or leeks; they’ll be too strong. However, parsley will do for those who find cilantro soapy. You can still add a crumble of goat cheese, feta or ricotta salata to this variation to make a full lunch of it. Sliced hard-boiled eggs make a pretty addition, too.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 to 6 medium beets of any color, roasted, peeled and sliced
  • 3 scallions or baby leeks, chopped
  • 1/4 up chopped cilantro or parsley
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 cup arugula or watercress

Dressing

  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • generous pinch of chili flakes and/or a sliced hot pepper
  • 1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
  • 1 T. pomegranate or tamarind syrup
  • 1 T. walnut oil
  • 2 T. neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed oil
  • salt, to taste

Preparation

Gently toss sliced beets, scallions, walnuts and herbs. Beat together the dressing ingredients with fork, tasting to adjust seasoning, and mix with beets. To serve, spread most of arugula on platter or mound on individual plates. Spoon beet mixture on it, and end with a little more arugula.

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