Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Roasted Golden Beet Salad with Raspberry-Garlic Vinaigrette

The other day an acquaintance of mine asked me; "Are you available for contract wifing? Because you cook the kind of things I should eat but wouldn't even think of making myself. I swear, I wouldn't ask for sex. Just food." The answer, of course, was no. I am available for catering services upon request but I am not in charge of anyone's daily meals unless the package includes the all-important arts of sexual gratification, various handyman services, hand-holding rights, snuggling and story-listening indulgences, the occasional bunch of flowers, and co-viewing of films of my choice both in-theatre and in-home. Oh, and smooching of both the public and private variety.

So, allow me to impress you with yet another feat of recipe change-up magic. I started with Bella Cucina's little beauty and worked from there. As the farmer's markets begin to present their vegetable wonders (it's been a bit thin on the ground until now) I've decided to pick some things I've traditionally not eaten to see if I still hate them. First up on the list was beets. Historically, I've been served the unnaturally-hued neon candied sort sliced up cold on the side of a salad. While kind of aesthetically lovely in their own way I don't find any enjoyment in their flavor. Perhaps I would enjoy them more if they were homemade but I think these have generally come from a can or store-bought glass jar. Anyway, the verdict has been - until now - that I HATE beets.

When I saw the amber-orange hue of the golden beets sitting on a table at the East Side Open Market I couldn't resist. I was told by the farmer that they were quite sweet as opposed to the earthy flavor of red beets.

I started off cleaning and trimming the beets, placed them in a glass baking dish with 2 tbps of olive oil, a handful of fennel seeds, several sprigs of rosemary, and three flattened garlic cloves. (Rather than crushing them in a press, I simply flattened them with the blade of a large knife and placed the peeled, crushed cloves in the pan.) I then roasted them, covered in foil as the starting-point recipe suggested at 350° for approximately 50 minutes. The last 10 minutes of their baking time I placed a sheet of raw walnuts in, checking and shaking every 2 minutes I toasted them as a topping.

After the beets were roasted to the point of easy pierceability, I set the beets and caramelized garlic cloves aside to cool. (And the recipe suggested discarding them! Can you imagine throwing away perfectly delicious caramelized garlic?!? Oh, the insanity!) I poured the liquid contents of the pan into a salad-dressing bottle and added 1 tbsp of tarragon and shallot vinegar, 1/2 tbsp of olive oil, a little black pepper, some lemon juice, a handful of smooshed-up raspberries (I did this in a plastic baggie with the back of a spoon in order to retain the juices), and gave it a good shake.

In a bowl I cleaned and stemmed baby spinach and basil leaves, added some healthy slices of heirloom tomato, thinly sliced yellow peppers, the toasted walnuts, thinly sliced pearl red onion, and a handful of whole raspberries. Then I tossed it with the vinaigrette.

When the beets were cool enough to touch, I peeled off their skins to reveal their gorgeous jewel-like color and the smell was delightful. I sliced them in half and then into half-moons as the recipe suggests. Then I took the caramelized garlic, chopped it roughly and added that and the sliced beets to the top of the salad.

Oh, my goodness gracious. Welcome to tasty-town, population me. Some might be so inclined to add some dollops of goat cheese or perhaps some greek yogurt to round out the proteins but I didn't find the addition of dairy necessary. Plus, I was afraid it would overpower the beets whose flavor is quite delicate.

New verdict: I love beets. I dunno about the red ones just yet but the golden beets are victorious.

It's summer and therefore my ice cream weakness has reared it's delicious head. While this weekend I indulged myself with Leon's Frozen Custard (their chocolate is to DIE for!), I can't do that every night. *le sigh* Thus, might I suggest, for dessert Purely Decadent's Pomegranate Chip "ice cream"? In the past I've made Rice Dream's Strawberry my favorite but it has a new and powerful rival. Purely Decadent's caloric, fat, sodium, and carb content is actually lower and the texture and taste are MUCH better. It is, in fact, quite wonderful and satisfies my craving for creamy goodness. I highly recommend it.

Next up on the try or die list: Ochra - traditional response: PLEH! Tune in next week and see if I can change my mind.


winter said...

I envy your culinary skills.

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