A recipe of growth for both husband and wife.
I love beets and Chad hates them. I don’t really know if it’s hate; perhaps it’s just fear of the unknown, like is the case with many “hated foods.” Alternatively, it could also be the exposure he has had to them up to this point. Let’s face it, beets are flavorful, and a flavor that is unique and too strong for some. Then, they often get pickled or treated in another way that pretty much forces you to pick a side; Love It or Hate It.
I didn’t eat beets too much while growing up, and though I remember them being intense, I don’t recall hating them. Now, liking the variety they provide to my taste buds, I quite like them. What this means is that when we are eating out, I usually order them if they are on the menu.
This brings us to part one of the story! Chad and I were eating at Merchant, a great restaurant in Madison, WI, which at the time had a beet salad using golden beets, candied walnuts, herbed goat cheese and sunflower sprouts. It was delicious. I was able to persuade Chad to try it, probably due to the pretty golden beets and not the intense red-purple of your more typical beet. HE LIKED IT!
Now here’s the second part of the story. For my part, I have always been pretty leery of Gorgonzola and blue cheeses. The intense flavor and odor…yes, it is quite strong and stinky…has been just too intense for me. However, as I have eaten a greater variety of things, including increasingly strong cheeses, I have come to look for even more flavor. As it turned out, all my previous cheeses—mozzarella to cheddar to Swiss—have just been gateway cheeses to the big guns, Gorgonzola and blue! So the same dish that was a stretch for Chad was also one for me, and in the end, we both loved it! So, I decided to borrow Merchant’s salad idea and adapt it to work in my own kitchen.
I searched the internet for a recipe to start with, and ended up finding pretty much exactly the one I was imagining at http://www.tinytestkitchen.com/2010/10/roasted-beet-blue-cheese-and-walnut-salad-with-arugula/. It fit the bill because as you can see by the original restaurant version, it was mostly beets. I wanted to flip it, and make the beets more of a topping or at most, have an equal part greens to beets. I encourage you to check out this recipe, but I also did things just a bit differently:
Beets (I use golden, but any and all types could be mixed here): Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the beets under water and cut off greens, if they are still attached. Mine came sans greens, which is probably better, since trying those may be asking a bit too much from Chad! (No need to peel them; the roasting will take care of that.) I place them in a pan with water just covering the bottom and cover tightly with foil. Roast for about 60 minutes, checking a couple times to be sure the pan hasn’t gone dry and that they are fork tender. Since you can eat beets raw, you don’t need to worry about leaving them too raw, but this recipe calls for a softer beet, with no crunch left. Also, you can steam them or microwave them…they are pretty hardy, so it’s tough to mess them up, even though they do take some time to work with.
Take them out of the water and let them cool until you are comfortable handling them.
They should be pretty easy to peel at this point; just rubbing them with your hands or a towel may do the trick, but you can also use a paring knife to finish the job. Cut them into dice-sized pieces.
Crumbled Blue Cheese: I use the reduced fat version since it’s still very flavorful but with 20 fewer calories per ¼ cup than the original. Also, the saturated fat is 17% of the daily value versus 25% for the original. The rule of thumb is you should look for a saturated fat of less than 10%, but I find I don’t eat a full ¼ cup since I use only about half that as a topping for my salad, and it also helps that I don’t eat a lot of saturated fat in my daily diet. Also, eating stronger cheeses in general can mean you eat less before you are satisfied…a great trick to keep the portions down! Here is the nutritional information from the cheese I used, which can be found at: http://www.treasurecavecheese.com/Cheeses/default.aspx?id=32
Arugula: Chad and I LOVE this salad green…its spicy, like someone has peppered it! You can find it in some stores in the bagged salad section. I will use 100% arugula or a mix with other greens (spinach works well, and they are sometimes even sold as a mix.) I was able to get some at the farmers market, and am using 100% arugula this time. Rinse the greens and let them drain or dry them in a salad spinner.
Nuts: Since we don’t usually have candied walnuts on hand, as the original calls for, and we are fine to skip the extra calories, we have used regular walnuts. However, this time we didn’t even have those in the pantry, so I used slivered almonds. Pistachios and pecans would also be great, and I’m looking forward to trying those as well!
Dressing: (I like my dressing citrusy, so added some juice and omitted the honey.)
½ cup Olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
1T of Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
This is just a start…adjust the flavors as you like, adding more or less lemon juice, vinegar and pepper. You can also experiment with different flavors of mustard. Make extra; this dressing can be used for ANY salad…its easy, tasty and healthy! (There’s NO reason to buy store-bought dressings!)
Assembly: Combine the greens and beets and dress with the dressing. Top with blue cheese and nuts to your liking. Note: If you think you’ll have leftovers, dress the portions as you go; the arugula will wilt if stored in the fridge with the dressing.
Beware: This salad screams FLAVOR! With the beets, arugula, blue cheese and lemon in the vinaigrette, you will get a great flavor explosion with every bite! Chad and I think this might be why he likes the beets here; they are not the only flavor happening, so they don’t seem very overpowering. I suppose I feel the same way about the blue cheese. Either way, this is a great recipe for us, because it challenges us both to try something new in a very tasty and healthy way!