Such a long absence for me from the blog. But I return with Beets! A super healthy vegetable that confuses many cooks. Some people think it tastes like dirt, for some it’s too sweet for a “real” vegetable, many were ruined by the canned beets of the old school diner veg option, an alternative to grey peas or mushy carrots. But beets are super delicious and I will offer two salads (and, if you ask I’ll go further down beet street and delve into other options). One of the most requested recipes from Cleonice regulars is for the Beet and Gorgonzola Salad. This was an ever-present Tapas, with many devotees. It is truly easy though and relies on good ingredients prepared simply so the individual elements shine, a cornerstone of our food philosophy.
We picked up these beets from Happy Town Farm at the Ellsworth Farmers Market on Saturday. The lighter ones are Chioggia, if you cut them raw, they have a candy-striped bulls eye in the middle, are also super sweet and delicious. To prepare the beets, trim off the greens, I’m going to save the Chioggia greens for a chicken stew tomorrow since they won’t bleed into the dish. The greens are also delicious lightly sautéed in olive oil and garlic. Make sure to wash the beets well. Place the clean trimmed beets in a sauce pan and cover with about an inch of water and bring to a boil. (Don’t try to peel them raw, the skin will slip off after boiling).
Beets vary on cooking time depending on the size. These took about 30 minutes, Your beets are done when a fork pierces it easily. While we allow the beets to cool enough to handle lets start the dressing. Actually you can start this dressing anytime, it stores easily up to a week in the refrigerator. The beets too can be started one day while you’re working on something else, pop them in the fridge and make the salad in the next day or two when you’re short on time.
Gorgonzola Dolce is the other star of this show. It is the “sweet” version of Gorgonzola cheese, an Italian blue-veined cheese, it is creamier and more buttery than your average Gorgonzola. If you can’t find the dolce version, go ahead and use the usual variety. Gorgonzola is a lovely contrast to the sweet, earthy beets. Combine 3 TB white wine vinegar, a chopped shallot, 1/2 cup mild olive oil and a quarter pound of Gorgonzola Dolce, and a pinch of black pepper. I’m using my Nutribullet, it’s a smoothie maker so it will super puree everything. You can use an immersion blender or small food processor for similar results. The result is a creamy dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. I find the cheese is salty enough so I don’t need to add any salt. When it chills in the refrigerator, it turns into a buttery textured solid, this is how we sold it at the restaurant and would quenelle it at place it on top of the beets. After the beets cool, use a paring knife to cut off the remaining stems. This gives you a good starting place to slip off the skin from the rest of the beet which should come off easily with a little pressure from your thumbs. You can use gloves to avoid getting your fingers excessively stained.Using a mandoline slicer, cut slim (about a quarter-inch or less) slices of beet. This type of mandoline is a Benriner and is very inexpensive at about $20. It’s great for slivering garlic, or slicing potatoes for chips, it can also do miniature julienne. Just watch your fingers… Now all you need to do is compose. I put alternating slices of Chioggia beets with red beets. A little red onion adds some texture. If you don’t have a mandoline you can easily make this into a more rustic salad with chunks of beets dressed with Gorgonzola, a sprinkle of walnuts, and onions. Add some greens for a more substantial salad if you like.
Next time I’ll tell you about the beet salad we served at Raven’s Nest restaurant this past summer, and how we came up with the beet salad that just might be even better than this one.
- 3 lbs raw beets, trimmed of greens
- a few slivers of red Onion
- ¼ cup of toasted walnuts
- For the dressing:
- 3 Tb White wine Vinegar
- ½ cup Mild Olive Oil
- ¼ lb Gorgonzola Dolce cheese
- 1 small Shallot Minced
- Pinch of Black Pepper
- Place beets in saucepan and cover with water up to an inch above the beets.
- Bring beets to a boil in the pot. Boil for about 30 minutes or until a fork easily pierces the beet.
- Allow the beets to cool before peeling.
- For the dressing:
- Combine all ingredients in a small food processor or base of an immersion blender.
- Process until thoroughly combined.
- If you do not have access to a processor, mince your shallot small, and mash the Gorgonzola into the rest of the ingredients until thoroughly blended.
- Peel and slice cooled beets and arrange on a plate.
- Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with toasted walnuts and slivered red onion.