24 April 2010

I made a pretty salad

J had been saying that she wanted to have some roasted beets, so I was happy to oblige. Give me some inkling of a plan and I'm on it in the kitchen these days. She'd been away on business and hadn't had a home cooked meal in ages. So after a day of battling with an errant computer on the work front, I was happy to come home to kitchen and excercise some creativity. So I put together this lovely roasted beet salad.

It's a bit time consuming but pretty easy overall.

Roasted beet salad with walnuts and watercress
3 small beets (or 1-2 larger ones)
yellow pepper
handful of walnuts
goat cheese/feta

Preheat the oven to 425. Peel the beets and if they are big, cut them in half. Season beets, wrap them in foil and add a splosh of oil and a bit of water (which helps them steam and makes them less oily than if you use only oil). I put them in a baking dish because there is always some sticky red beet juice that escapes and the oven cleanup from that is not pretty.  Cook for about 45 min to an hour until they are tender.  (I tend to roast extra and then have for another salad or some other recipe over the next few days.)

In the last few minutes the beets are in the oven, toast the walnuts. Watch them though because it only takes about 3-5 minutes or they'll burn and be bitter. I coated mine with a bit of honey once I took them out of the oven. It's faster and easier than making proper candied walnuts and adds that hint of sweetness.

Once the beets are cooked, slice them into wedges and let them cool.

Clean some watercress (get rid of most of the thick stems which are not so delicious) and place it on the plate. Add some colour by alternating the beets with tomatoes and peppers. In this case, I used some crumbled feta we had on hand but soft goat cheese is really the best mixing its sharpness with the sweetness of the beets. Sprinkle the walnuts over the top of it all.

Now I'm very hit and miss with the dressings - could be that I just make it up and hope for the best most of the time but here, I didn't want it to detract so actually got the oil and vinegar mix right! And, importantly again, to balance the sweetness, it had shallots which bring that necessary onion flavour to the mix.

Shallot vinaigrette
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil (use the good stuff, it's the dressing)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 small shallot minced
1 pinch sugar
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp water.

I put it all in a small jar and shake it up so you get a good emulsified mix. If you can make it at least an hour in advance of eating then the shallots have time to impart their flavour more to the dressing.

We had it with some linguine and bolognese sauce (which fulfilled my chili intake for the day with just a little hint of heat) and used up some of the herbs from the window herb garden, which always gives a little sense of extra joy!

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