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Monday, March 10, 2014


I think beets get a bad rap. They're almost polarizing. People either love or hate the earthy downtrodden root. I know there are people out there who love beets. While I'm on the love-fest side of the fence, very few people I know share my enthusiasm. I typically have to grab them on the sly or catch them on an occasional salad bar. That said, my last few salad bar adventures were beet-less. Zero. Slim pickings for a beet lover.

Sometimes, you have to grab the bull by the horns and take a little ride. I wanted beets. Period. Giddy-up, Mr. Bull.

Roasted Beet Salad.
Typically, I roast beets in individually-wrapped aluminum packets. While it's a great method, it's messy business. The beets usually stick to the foil and bleed from the packets. Familiar territory. Low on my foil supply, I took a simpler approach. After snipping the greens (washed and reserved)  from 3 bunches of chioggia, red, and golden beets, I scrubbed the beet bulbs before dropping them into a shallow roasting pan. I added 1/2 cup water, covered the pan with aluminum foil, and slid them into a 375 degree oven to roast/steam/bake for 1 1/2 hours.

When the beets were tender enough to poke through with a wooden skewer, I pulled them from the oven and let them rest until they were cool enough to handle. Using rubber gloves, I easily slipped the skins from the beets and tossed them into the refrigerator to chill. Sure, I splattered everything in sight with wet crimson beet juice. When you play with beets, expect bloodshed.

With the beets safely tucked away, I gave a demure nod to molecular gastronomy with a simple method for balsamic pearls from Modernist Cooking Made Easy.
Balsamic Pearls.
After placing 1 cup of olive oil into the freezer to chill for 45 minutes, I boiled 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar with 1 tablespoon agar agar and poured the mixture into a squeeze bottle.  When the olive oil was quite chilled and cloudy, I carefully drizzled droplets of the thickened balsamic vinegar into the oil. As the droplets fell through the cold olive oil, they formed into tiny little spheres. Fabulous. I gave the pearls a quick stir to break them apart before dropping them into chilled water to set.

I pulled the beets from the refrigerator, sliced them paper thin rounds, tossed them with sliced watermelon radishes, added a few small raw beet greens, and drizzled everything with a simple lemon vinaigrette. After layering them will-nilly onto a serving plate, I nestled the balsamic pearls into the beets before finishing with flaked sea salt and slivered serrano peppers.

The glistening jewel-toned beets packed a potent earthy punch. Sliced whisper thin, they were both robust and delicate. Crazy. Mimicking the tender sweet beets, the watermelon radishes crashed the party with killer stinging crunch.  So, balsamic pearls and lemon vinaigrette? Overkill? Nope. It was a fantastic combination. The jellied balsamic pearls countered the bright clean acidity of the lemon vinaigrette with small pops of concentrated dark sweet acidity. Balance.

Beet fix.
Total self indulgence.

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