Let me first say that I love beets. I do not know exactly when I started liking them but I can tell you it was not in childhood. I think it was the time in undergrad when I started getting over my preconceived notions of how I thought some “different” things taste, i.e. BAD. Boy, was I wrong not only about beets but a few other things that I love now.
Plus, it’s winter…Beet season! I love their earthy taste and I adore them in a sweet and salty application. As you have probably figured out, I am drawn to bright and rich colors like no other. The deep blood red color is absolutely gorgeous (although it leaves a big mess everywhere. 😉 ) Usually, I like to pair beets with goat cheese and intended to do so, until I got a whiff of it which reminded me of the Berber family’s goat stable I visited in Morocco. I know, I’m pathetic. Mind you, before visiting this stable I would eat chevre on salads, sandwiches, or even on its own. I hope I get over this very soon. I want my love of goat cheese back!
Instead of chevre I paired the salad with Gorgonzola (no stable reminders there, though generally it is a far more stinky cheese…) The Gorgonzola worked wonderfully, cutting the earthiness of the beets, creating perfect harmony. I mentioned that I like beet salads to be sweet and salty. That is why I prepared a shallot jam to go with the beets. It would be delicious on its own with a soft room temperature cheese and crostini and maybe a drizzle of honey. Yum! Another sweet component were the Anjou pears I lightly sauteed with kosher salt and dried cranberries. I thought to myself, “forget about the salad, I’ll just get a spoon and eat these right now.”
I also added avocado, a bit out of place but I love the pop of green and a raw component to the dish. The dressing I made was simple and balanced out all the flavors. I made an orange and stoneground dijon dressing, which was so simple to prepare and would go on practically any salad you choose. I did not use too much because the salad did not need it. Of course, I added some sort of nut for some crunch, in this case toasted walnuts.
Yummy Beet Salad
For the salad:
3 shallots, sliced
1 pear, cubed (I used Anjou)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 an avocado, cubed
1 handful crumbled gorgonzola cheese (or chevre)
1/4 toasted walnuts, in pieces
2 tablespoons brown sugar
salt to taste
red chili flakes to taste
black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of butter
chives for garnish, optional
Boil beats in water for about 40 minutes or until tender. When cooked removed the skin and cut into half moon shapes. (You can roast them if you like.)
Prepare the shallot jam by placing them in a pan on medium heat with 1 tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil. Add a pinch of salt so they start sweating. After about 10 minutes add the crushed red chili flakes and turn the heat to low and allow the shallots to caramelize. After 15 minutes add the brown sugar and stir the shallots so that the sugar down not burn. Cook for another 5 minutes. Take out of the pan and set aside.
In the same pan add the cubed pears with 1 tablespoon of butter and a pinch of salt. Cook them on medium low heat for about 10 minutes or until they start to caramelize. At the 10 minute mark add the dried cranberries and allow them to reconstitute. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Assemble the salad by laying the beats down first and topping with the shallot jam and the pears/dried cranberry mixture. Top off with the gorgonzola, avocado, and walnuts. Sprinkle with a little salt and fresh black pepper.
For the dressing:
1 garlic clove, minced finely
juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
1 teaspoon stoneground dijon mustard
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Combine all the ingredients except the olive oil into a bowl. Next slowly whisk in the olive oil so that the dressing emulsifies. Top the beets with a drizzling of the dressing.
*Vegan Option: Use olive oil instead of butter where butter is mentioned. Omit the cheese (add extra dried fruits or nuts if you like) and use soy yogurt in place of the creme fraiche in the salad dressing.