Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Beet Goes On

A friend of Steven’s from work gave him some home grown beets the other day after he had driven her home. Steven said she was growing beets in her yard and that he had never seen so many beets in one place at one time. Half the garden was dedicated to beets!

I have never been a fan of beets, which you typically get out of a can, and for which, I have likened their flavor to tasting something like pickled dirt. With that said, here I was…faced with fresh beets and a lot of them. I remembered that Tyler Florence on the Food Network had made a panzanella out of beets once, and I thought that was intriguing. Panzanella, if you don’t know, is a simple Italian toasted bread salad.

I borrowed heavily from Tyler Florence’s recipe, but with a few of my own twists here is what I did.

Summer Beet Panzanella

For the Salad
1 Bunch of Beets
½ pint Cherry Tomatoes cut in half
½ Red Onion (sliced as thinly as possible)
1 Bunch Arugula

For the Croutons
½ Loaf Quality French Bread*
2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 Garlic Clove
½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

For the Dressing
1 Shallot (Diced Fine)
¼ cup Honey
2 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tsp Fresh Marjoram
1 TBSP Dijon Mustard

Begin by roasting the beets. Thoroughly clean and trim the beets leaving just a little of the stem for easy handling later. Place the beets on a sheet of aluminum foil and douse with a little olive oil. Fold the aluminum foil into a packet and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees in a pre-heated oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until beets are tender. Remove beets from oven and let cool. You can place them in the refrigerator and cool them overnight if desired. Once cool, using plastic gloves, remove the outer skin of the beet simply by rubbing it. The skin should slide off easily. If you do not use gloves, the beets will stain your fingers.

To make the croutons, cut of the crust of some quality French bread. Cut into 1 inch slices and then cube into 1 inch squares. You want big pieces of bread. In a bowl, add minced garlic and olive oil. Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet and coat with the garlic and oil. Toss the parmesan cheese over the cubes and mix well. Make sure the bread is lightly coated, but not drenched. Place the bread in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for approximately 12 minutes. You want the croutons to have a nice crunch on the outside, but still remain slightly soft.

To make the dressing, place the minced shallot into a bowl. Add the balsamic vinegar, honey, olive oil and Dijon mustard. Strip the leaves off the fresh marjoram and give a loose chop. Add to the dressing and whisk to combine. If you don’t have marjoram, try fresh thyme, oregano or basil. All would work fine in this recipe.

To assemble the salad, place the dressing at the bottom of a large salad bowl. Cut the beets in half or quarters depending on how large they are and place in the bowl. Add the halved cherry tomatoes, sliced red onion and the arugula. Add the croutons and toss until the dressing is well incorporated. The croutons should take on the beet color. I grow nasturtiums in the summer and the edible flower makes a lovely topping to the salad.

*Use a light French bread. You do not want a dense or crusty bread as that will create croutons which are too hard to chew.

Variations: Mix in sliced cucumbers and dates to the salad for some added sweetness. Another suggestion is to top the salad with some crumbled goat cheese or feta for an added twist.

As I look at this recipe, it seems that there is a lot of work here, but in actuality, this was very simple. You do have to plan ahead, since you have to roast the beets, but once that is done; it’s smooth sailing; just some chopping and tossing, really.

The verdict: I liked the salad. I liked the taste of the beets, especially with the dressing which has a lot of sweetness to it. Apparently, it’s a good thing, because Steve’s friend confessed that she can’t have beets and promised to provide us with lots more.

Oh, and by the way, after Steve tried the salad, he was reminded that he hates beets and it really doesn’t matter what I do to them, he is going to continue to hate them. It looks like I have a lot of solitary beet consumption ahead of me. Now where did I see a recipe for Borscht?


Maria said...

Your now an official BEET EATER!!!

michel.pascual said...

Yeah, I'm opposed to eating dirt, too, but after eating a nice beet salad in Newport Beach, I think I'm starting to hear the beet of a different drum. Thanks for the recipe!

Tami said...

Yeah, you have joined the beet world. I love beets!!!!

Andaliman said...

never try this recipe before. I should try it

Patrick said...

If you like beets you will love it!