beet lovers unite!

By Friday, August 06, 2010 , , , , ,

I’ve have slowly come to the realization that there are two parties in this world: beet lovers and beet haters (no political affiliations here!). I am head-over-heels, a beet lover. Thankfully, Chris is too. Pickle is still on the fence. The beet haters, as I’ve come to learn, think that they taste like dirt. This is understandable, since that’s where they grow, but their earthiness is so nicely paired with their inherent sweetness — especially when roasted — that I can't understand the anti-beet sentiment. Anyway, this recipe is for the LOVAHs out there who can get enough beets!

The inspiration for this dish was that fact that I had a heck of a lot of beets in the fridge and needed to do something with them — new. I had been counting the days for tomato season to begin, so naturally I had panzanella on the brain. With some day-old bread on the counter and a bevy of basil from our CSA, I thought, “beet panzanella.” I’m sure someone else has made this before me, but I seriously thought I had a moment of brilliance, especially since I was utilizing a whole slew of ingredients from my overflowing icebox.

I roasted the beets the night before, so they were ready to go. While I baked the croutons in the oven, I prepped all the other ingredients, first by making the vinaigrette. Here’s one thing I learned in making this: a tomato-based panzanella is juicier, so you’ll need more dressing for the beet version. When the vinaigrette hits the tomatoes, they start releasing their own juices and this gets mixed into the salad and good things start to happen. Beets don’t have a lot going on in the juice department (poor beets), so you’ll need to compensate for that in a little more vinaigrette, but still go slow in adding it to the salad because there is nothing worse than an overdressed, gloppy salad.

With that, get roasting and chopping and mixing and dicing your way to beet happiness.

p.s. as you can see in the photo below, a fortunate or unfortunate side effect is the fantastic Technicolor-pink hue the entire salad takes on the minute the dressing hits the beets.

Beet Panzanella
Serves 4 hungry adults as a starter or 2-3 for a main course

6 medium-sized mixed beets (ruby, golden and Chioggia), roasted – I used the Marc Bittman version from How to Cook Everything since it’s super easy.
½ a red onion sliced very thinly into half moons
1 cucumber, seeded and diced
A large bunch of basil, roughly torn into pieces
½ loaf of day-old bread cut into 1-inch cubes
Olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper

For the vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (about 8 turns on the peppermill)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. On the baking sheet toss the bread cubes with a few glugs of olive oil, a large pinch or two of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Toss well and bake until the croutons are toasty browns and crisp all over – about 15 minutes.

While the croutons are baking, make the vinaigrette. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper until incorporated. While whisking, slowly pout the olive oil into the mustard-vinegar mixture until emulsified. Set aside.

Remove the blackened skin from the beet, trim the ends and cut into 1-inch pieces. Add them, along with the onions, cucumber, beets and basil to a large serving bowl.

The croutons should be done by now; remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Add to the salad and toss with hands to evenly distribute everything. Add the vinaigrette. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Eat within the hour or the croutons start to lose their crispness.

Happy eating, -s.

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  1. I'm in on the beets! Ate some today with goat cheese and sprouts, delish!