beet & mandarin salad

Beets have a bad rap. They’re eaten by the extremes of humanity – babies and the elderly – and almost no one else. It’s really quite unfair. While they may have a unique, earthy yet fresh flavor, they complement so many other flavors.20140303-121312.jpg

Roasting beets concentrates their natural sweetness and they pair well with a bit of acid. Beets and oranges are a natural complement.

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I’ll admit that I don’t typically like salads that require a bit of upfront effort.  However, the effort involved with this one really can yield a few items aside from the salad.  Roasted beets can be used in several dishes.  They’re lovely in salads, pastas, and even in chocolate cake.   Though the cake recipe will have to wait for another day.  The spicy-sweet pecans in this recipe make a fantastic snack or an appetizer.  I’d suggest doubling up that part of the recipe if that’s part of your plan.  Even if you don’t intend to get multiple use for these items, the salad alone is quite lovely.  Given the weather we’ve been having lately, I could use a dose of lovely.

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beet & mandarin salad

adapted from Salad of the Day by Georgeanne Brennan (my favorite cookbook for the past year)

serves 4

to make the spicy, sweet pecans:

1/2 cup pecan halves
1 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 325°F. Toss all ingredients in a small bowl to coat. Bake on parchment paper until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

to roast the beets:

3 beets
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Trim the green beet tops. Peel skin with a vegetable peeler and place on aluminum foil on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap in foil. Roast until easily pierced by a knife, about 1 hour.

for the honey vinaigrette:

1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
salt & pepper
3-4 Tbsp olive oil

Whisk together the honey and vinegars. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Season.

to assemble the salad:

diced roasted beets
spicy sweet pecans
2-4 oz. cheddar cheese curds*
3 mandarin oranges, segmented
1 head romaine or bibb lettuce

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with the honey vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

* I originally tried the recommended farmer’s cheese in this recipe.  If you’re a stinky cheese fan, this would be the place for it.  I just don’t happen to enjoy it.  I recommend something a bit more mild, like cheddar cheese curds, for those of us with less-refined palates.

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