Friday, April 16, 2010

"red is my favorite color"

the food: Roasted Beet & Mandarin Orange Salad
the song: "Red" Okkervil River

Happy Friday! Aren't weekends the best? Tonight I'm excited to attend the Dogfish Head tasting which kicks off the first night of the Off Centered Film Fest at Alamo Lakecreek. We've been every year since it started and it is always a delicious and fun evening sampling some of the craziest, boldest beers out there. This year, there are food pairings to accompany the beer, and although I won't be able to eat most of it, the meaty menu looks pretty amazing. Saturday my step dad is coming down for a visit. We'll be going to the second evening of the DFH event, but in the meantime we're going to be working around the house and puttering around Austin.

I'm going to be pretty silent the next few days but before I sign off for the weekend, I want to share this recipe with you from last weekend, when we got to do one of my favorite things ever. We were invited over to a friend's house for a delicious home cooked meal that stretched over three and a half hours. The weather was pleasant, so we sat outside the entire evening, sipping wine and catching up. The food was absolutely perfect. Nothing too fancy or elaborate, just good solid ingredients and time spent preparing them. Our gracious hosts served an out-of-this-world peppery pasta with mushrooms and goat cheese. We were asked to bring a salad.

I was very excited to be tasked with salad. That might be the only time you'll ever hear me say that...salad doesn't usually rev me up too much. But spring is such a nice time when all the vegetables are cheap and at their best. I mentioned this recipe before on Valentine's Day, and am only now making it again. This time, I had my camera at my side each step of the way.

This salad isn't difficult to make, but it is a labor of love. It takes quite a bit of time to prepare, but that's what makes it taste so good. Roasting the beets gives them a wonderful, rich flavor and brings out that gorgeous color. I roasted the beets the day before the dinner, chopped them the morning of, put the salad together about an hour before we went over, and tossed in the dressing right before serving. I used all homegrown greens in this salad (yay spring!), mostly spinach with a little swiss chard for color. The salad went perfectly with the goat cheese pasta. It was a truly lovely evening with good friends and good food.

I'm excited to cook with beets again. I used leftovers to make a bright pink pasta with greens, beets, and goat cheese. A picture wouldn't even do it I watched it turn more and more pink, the color looked almost artificial. I'm interested in making something sweet with beets. Perhaps this chocolate beet cake? It might be in my future. But for now, this salad is my favorite way to enjoy them. I've made a few changes to the original recipe, which calls for golden and red beets and blood oranges. This would be excellent with some goat cheese thrown in, or served alongside it like we had it the other evening.  

Roasted Beet & Mandarin Orange Salad
adapted from 101cookbooks

about 1 pound red beets (save those greens!)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
2 small oranges (clementines, mandarins, blood...anything you like.) 
about 3 cups greens (lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, arugala...again, use your favorite here)
1/4 cup nuts (I used pecan, but walnuts would also be good)
For the vinagiarette:
1/4 cup good olive oil
2 tablespoons basalmic vinegar (I used orange infused white basalmic vinegar)
juice from 1 small orange
salt & pepper to taste

First thing's first: roast those beets! Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.Trim the tops and roots from the beets and wash well. Place the beets on a piece of foil large enough to fold over and seal. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Seal the foil, place on a baking sheet, and roast for about an hour until the beets are tender when pierced with a knife. Allow the beets to cool, then peel and cut each beet into bitesize pieces*. You can do this step up a day or two ahead of time, just cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the vinegarette, simply combine all listed ingredients and whisk well. Again, you can do this a day or two ahead of time.
Peel one orange, separate, and slice into bite size pieces. (Watch out for seeds, or use a seedless fruit.) Gently toss oranges with beets, and season with a little salt and pepper. When you are ready to assemble the salad, pile the beets and oranges and chopped nuts on top of washed and dried greens. Immediately before serving, drizzle with vinaigrette to moisten the greens and toss well; season with salt and pepper to taste.

*I've read recommendations to wear gloves to peel beets. Meh... I don't really worry about discolored fingers all that much. Just make sure you peel them over the sink, maybe under running water.  And be careful with your dish towels, clothes, counter tops, etc.. One of my towels now has a permanent reminder of this meal.

Have a great weekend!


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