Up until a few years ago, I had a serious aversion to beets. If anyone even asked me to try one, I would scrunch up my nose like a whiny little kid and yell "Ewwwwww...gross!"
Then everything changed. My husband and I were at an elegant restaurant, celebrating a birthday, and I couldn't help but notice a gorgeous concoction being delivered to the table next to us. "What is that?" I asked the waiter as he passed by. "It's our roasted beet salad," he replied. "It's one of our best dishes."
"Beets? Yuck!" screamed the voice inside my head. But then the rational adult voice stepped in, reasoning that if I was ever going to learn to like beets, this would be my chance. I ordered it.
When it arrived at the table, I spent a few minutes admiring it before I dug in. It was so artfully arranged: a perfectly round bed of goat cheese, topped with thin slivers of beets, standing on end and wrapped around each other to look almost like a tulip with a hollowed out middle. In the middle was some frisee lettuce dressed with a tangy orange vinaigrette. All three components of the dish complemented each other perfectly. The sweetness of the beets (which is what I don't like) was tamed by the tartness of the dressing and the sour tanginess of the goat cheese. I know I ordered some sort of expensive entree that night, too, but all I remember about the restaurant was that beet salad.
I've yet to replicate the exact salad I had that night, but I've come up with a similar, easier version. Aside from the flavors and the health benefits, the great thing about this dish is that it's beautiful to look at. As they always say, "We eat with our eyes first."
2-3 roasted red beets* diced into small cubes
1 cucumber, diced into small cubes
2 handfuls of greens, chopped (I used spring mix lettuce, but you could experiment with almost any type of green)
crumbled goat cheese
shelled, chopped pistachios (if you want extra crunch, toast the pistachios in a dry pan before adding them to the salad)
Citrus vinaigrette (below)
*To roast the beets, wrap them in aluminum foil and roast in the oven at 375 degrees until tender (usually takes about an hour). Peel them after they've been roasted.
For the vinaigrette: Combine several splashes of champagne vinegar and orange juice in a bowl. Add salt, a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice, and a dollop of dijon mustard. Whisk in some olive oil until it forms a nice consistency. Adjust ingredients/seasonings to taste. You want it to have some bite, but not be overly vinegary.
Combine all of the salad ingredients in a bowl, except the pistachios. Add just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. To serve fancy restaurant style: fill a small cup or glass with several scoops of salad, place a plate on top, and overturn. Lift up the cup and...voila! Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top.
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