Monday, March 7, 2011

Nothing Beats Beets

The beet craze continues. First up. Beets. Walnuts. Goat cheese. Enough said. A light vinaigrette binds the components together into a nice, simple starter or side. The goat cheese will take on the color of the beets. If this concerns you, simply top with the crumbled goat cheese instead of mixing it into the salad. Either way, this simple salad will not disappoint.

Next, we move onto the beet greens. Don't throw them away. They're not garbage. Trust me. Trim them, slice them up and wilt them in some olive oil and garlic. Toss with pasta, top a pizza, or simply enjoy them as a side much like any other sautéed greens. They are less bitter than many other greens, and they retain a nice crunch even when wilted. They bleed out a bit of pink color, tinting nearby ingredients a light rose hue, like the sliced garlic in this recipe.

Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Goat Cheese
Serves 4 to 6

1 lb red beets, trimmed but not peeled
2 oz (1/2 cup) whole walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1 T. + 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. Herbs de Provence
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 425 degrees F. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and place on a small sheet pan. Roast in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until tender (a fork should easily pierce through the beets). If beets vary in size, remove smaller beets from the oven as they become tender, and allow larger beets to roast longer until they are done. Remove foil and allow beets to cool slightly. Use a paper towel to rub off the beet skins. Chop the peeled, roasted beets into a 1/4-inch dice.

When the beets are completely cool, toss with the goat cheese and walnuts and then make the vinaigrette. In a metal bowl, whisk together the vinegar, honey, and Herbs de Provence. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk vigorously to emulsify the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the vinaigrette over the beet mixture and toss to combine. Chill the salad and serve cold or room temperature.

Spaghetti with Beet Greens and Garlic
Serves 2

8 oz spaghetti
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
4 to 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 to 4 oz trimmed beet greens (from about 2 bunches of beets), sliced into 1/2-inch strips
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T. grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook to al dente. Reserve a couple ladles of pasta water, and then drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until just softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add the beet greens, season with salt and pepper, and toss with the garlic until just wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Toss the wilted beet greens and Parmesan cheese with the spaghetti and add enough pasta water to loosen up the greens from clumping up.


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