"Things won are done,
Joy's Soul lies in the Doing."
- William Shakespeare

Monday, April 2, 2012

Making the Most (of Beets)

I usually have the very best of intentions when it comes to not being wasteful of food.  I sometimes find it tricky, though, to use every last bit of certain foods, even though they taste lovely.  Beet greens are often my downfall, as far as wastefulness goes, anyway.  I adore beets.  Everything about them:  their vibrant, almost obnoxious color; their sweet, yet earthy taste; how they adapt to so many preparations...steamed, boiled, roasted (especially roasted!), pickled, juiced...And yet those greens often elude me, and I find myself guiltily snipping them off, wilted from not being used immediately, and chucking them. 

I detest wasting food.

Not so last night, though, my friends.  I made the most of those beets, greens and all.  I'd been picking through Tender (again), and lit upon one of Slater's ever-so-helpful recommendations on an accompaniment to beets.  Get this:  gherkins.  (That's a cornichon to the French, and pickled, for us Americans.)  Beets and pickles, you say?  Hmm.  I mulled it over, and found it made sense.  After all, beets and dill are a perfect pairing, and how delicious are pickled beets?  So, I decide to make a salad out of my beet greens, which were young, tender, and rather sprightly (thus, I absolutely could not waste them, yet again), some roasted beetroot, and some cornichons.  A little pomegranate and shallot vinaigrette...and away we go.

Here you have it.  A salad that's just crazy enough to work:

A Salad of Roasted Beets, Wilted Beet Greens, and Cornichons - serves 4 as a side

1 bunch (3 or 4 small to medium) beets, with tender, fresh greens still attached
3/4 cup cornichons, sliced into bite-sized pieces
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
smoked flaky sea salt (regular flake sea salt will do fine)
freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbs pomegranate red wine vinegar (or balsamic)
1 tsp minced shallots
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp packed brown sugar
4 - 6 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (I used about 4, for a tangier vinaigrette)
smoked sea salt (or regular)
freshly ground black pepper

To prepare the beets:

Preheat the oven to 425deg F.

Snip the beet greens off, about an inch above the root.  Thoroughly wash the beetroot, scrubbing away any mud or dirt.  Check in the stems particularly, clumps of sandy mud often hide in there.  Rinse the greens (separately) in a sink partly filled with cold water, leaving to soak for a couple of minutes, to loosen any grit.  Drain, then wrap in a paper towel, and refrigerate until ready to assemble the salad.

Quarter or halve the beets, depending on size, and place on a large square of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, and season with smoked sea salt and pepper.  Wrap the packet tightly, place atop a baking sheet, and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until beets are fork-tender.

To prepare the vinaigrette:

Once the beets go into the oven, whisk together the vinegar, dijon, shallots, brown sugar, salt and pepper, until thoroughly combined, then drizzle in the olive oil, and whisk until emulsified, about a minute or so.  Leave at room temperature to let the flavors mingle until you dress the salad.

To assemble the salad:

*Note*  My beet greens were rather small, and quite tender, thus, needing no more than a little wilt from the hot-from-the-oven beetroot.  I'd advise using similarly young greens, or if that is impossible, either substitute another slightly bitter green (such as arugula, or mustard greens), or give older beet greens a go quick go around in a hot pan, to wilt them down a bit, before tossing the salad together.

In a large serving dish, toss the greens with small amount of vinaigrette, then the (still hot) beetroot.  Dress with a bit more vinaigrette, then scatter the cornichons over the salad.  Serve immediately.

You really could play with this salad, and change it up, by altering the dressing ingredients, or adding a tangy goats cheese to contrast with the sweetness of the beets, and the tart cornichons.  Have fun with your food, and make the most of it!

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