Friday, August 14, 2009

A beet dish that simply can't be beat

By Helen Klein

The first thing that happens when I cook with beets is that my fingers get stained a bright red.

But, that’s a small price to pay for the pleasures of eating the vegetable, which is at once sweet and earthy, and provides an intensely flavorful counterpoint to a myriad of grilled meats and crunchy raw salads.

The trick is to maximize the beet flavor, rather than masking it. That’s why I reach for my go-to dressing ingredients, freshly squeezed lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.

The first step in making a beet salad is cooking the beets, something I prefer to do in advance, so I have them waiting in the fridge when inspiration strikes. Often, I wrap each beet individually in aluminum foil and throw them on the barbecue when I’m cooking something else, turning every three or four minutes until they are thoroughly cooked and tender throughout. That adds another grace note to the beet flavor -- the smoky flavor of grilled food. But, the beets can also be cooked in a hot oven (375° F.) till they are tender. Again, they should be wrapped in foil first. They are done when the beets give to finger pressure and the skin comes away easily from the body of the fruit.

For this salad, I paired the beets with slices of sweet-tart macintosh apple, though I could also have used granny smiths. I also threw in some slices of onion, which I had presoaked in water overnight to take the bitterness away. Chopped fresh garlic and mint leaves fresh from the garden added some more reasons to go back for seconds, in a dish that is as pretty to look at as it is flavorful.

Beet and Apple Salad

1 lb. beets, cooked, peeled and thinly sliced
1 macintosh or granny smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
½ onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbl. freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup mint leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Combine beet, apple and onion slices in a non-reactive (stainless steel or glass) bowl.

Make dressing by combining garlic, oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. I often do this in a jar with a screw top, shaking all the ingredients together till they are emulsified.

Pour dressing over vegetables, gently stirring together till thoroughly combined.

Garnish with chopped mint leaves.

Serves 4 as a side dish or appetizer.


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