Roasted Beet Salad with Mint and Orange

Some CSA members may be thinking, “Awww!  Beets again?”  Perhaps for some, this brings back memories of sitting around the dinner table years ago, being served the same vegetable yet *again* by your parents.  If the beauty of beets are starting to fade for you, and you’re making that same face as you stare at them in your refrigerator as you did all those years ago, there’s good news: there are still more new and delicious ways to use beets. — Adam Gregory

{Recipe after the jump.}

Thankfully, as we’ve gotten older, we’ve learned to love beets.  And why shouldn’t we?  Even though we’re certainly eating a lot more of them all of a sudden than we may  be used to, they are a wonderfully tasty, healthy, and diverse food.  Aside from the typical red varietals, the CSA offers both golden and the occasional — and hard to find in stores — pink and white Chioggia beets.  Color differences aside, all beets are quite nutritious as well.

After a little research on the Self Nutrition Data website, I found that raw beets, per cup (136 grams), contain: 58.5 calories, 13 g carbs, 3.8g fiber, 9.2g sugars, 0.2g fat.  They also contain, as a precentage of your daily value requirements, Folate (37%), Manganese (22%), Potassium (13%), Vitamin C (11%), Magnesium (8%), Iron (6%), Phosphorus (5%), and Vitamin B6 (5%).  That’s not a bad start.  But nutrients mean little without flavor.  Fortunately, beets have a wonderfully complex flavor that is very unique.  They’re slightly sweet, yet earthy and rich all at the same time, with a texture that holds up well after cooking and gives a satisfying bite.

The simplest and most satisfying way that I’ve found to cook beets is by roasting them.  This nicely concentrates the natural flavors of the beet while being a no fuss, leave-em-and-forget-em way to cook part of your dinner.  Once roasted, the beets can be sealed in a plastic container and left to steam for a few minutes.  After that, while they’re still warm, they can be easily peeled, as the skins slide off easily.

However, I wouldn’t recommend peeling the beets unless you plan on using them that day.  Golden beets have a habit of oxidizing and turning a black color on exposed surfaces if left if the refrigerator unadorned over night.

Today, we’re going to use our roasted beets to make a easy and quick salad with a grainy mustard dressing, with oranges, mint, spinach, and nuts.

Roasted Beet Salad with Mint and Orange

Cooking time: Around 90 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches beets, stems and leaves removed
  • 1 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp grainey dijon mustard (regular dijon may be substituted)
  • 1 ½ tbs olive oil + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 15 mint leaves
  • 2 oranges, peeled and supremed
  • 2 tbs nuts (walnuts or almonds work well)
  • 2-3 cups baby spinach leaves and cress, loosely packed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Assembling the salad:

Preheat the oven to 375.

Wash the beets, dry them, and place them a bowl.  Toss with 1 tsp olive oil.

Spread the beets on a baking dish and place in the oven.  Cooking times will vary.  Small beets may take as little as 45 minutes to roast, while larger beets may take up to 1 hour 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the oranges by cutting off the top and bottom of the orange to get a flat surface.

Next, remove both the orange skin and the white pith beneath. Work your way around the orange until the skin has been removed.  You’ll see the orange is naturally divided into segments.  To remove these, with a small knife, carefully cut between the membranes separating the segments, first on one side, then the other.  This is known as a supreme.  That’s French culinary term, and as with some french techniques, this isn’t the easiest way to cook and eat food.  But it does give you nice, neat, and clean orange segments.  If you’re interesting in trying this, watch this video and this video first to get an idea of how to do this.

If you don’t want to go through the trouble, since the orange in half lengthwise and then cut slices around ¼” to ½” thick to enjoy on the side.  This won’t be as good, but it will work.

Once the beets are all cooked, remove them from the oven.  The best way to see if your beets are done is to slide a knife into the center of the beet.  If it slides in with no real resistance, the beets are ready.  Since you may have different sizes, remove them from the oven as they are done and place inside a sealed plastic container.

Let the beets steam for at least 10 minutes.  You can let them sit longer, but you’ll want to peel them while they are still warm.  Peeling the beets is always one of the worst parts of working with them, since beets do stain… everything… horribly.  So, as a general rule, try not to peel beets in your best attire, and wash your hands regularly to prevent your hands from looking like you’ve decided to die your fingers red or yellow.

There are a few ways to go about peeling them.  You can try removing the skins with your hands or with a small knife.  Both of these ways will be messy but can get the job done.  If you happen to have an old towel around that you don’t mind staining, the easiest (and least messy) way is to place a beet in the towel and rub the surface with the cloth until the skin is mostly removed.  Any remaining skin can be taken off with a knife or your fingers.

Cut the beets lengthwise, and then slice across to get beet slices around ⅛” thick.

To make the dressing, combine the vinegar, honey, and mustard.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsified dressing.

Season the sliced beets with salt and pepper.  Add the dressing to the beets and toss to coat.  Adjust the seasoning if needed.

Take the mint leaves and stack them on top of each other.  Now, roll them lengthwise tightly into a little bundle.  Slice across the leaves to get thin strips.  The french have coined this term a chifonade.  Sounds fancy, and it may be.  But it is also the quickest and easiest way to slice several mint leaves thinly without bruising.  Add the mint to the beets and toss them together.

Place the spinach leaves in a larger bowl, sprinkle with a little extra olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the salad, either as a family style serving or as individual portions as I have pictured, place the spinach on a plate or in a bowl.  Scatter the orange segments and dressed beet slices around the spinach, and sprinkle any nut of your choice over the top.  Almonds and walnuts work well, but pine nuts, pecans, cashews, and even macadamia nuts all add a wonderful texture and crunch.

This makes a great light lunch or dinner.  However, if you want something more substantial, add other things to the plate with the salad.  For instance, I decided to serve the salad with radishes which I had roasted whole, sliced, and browned in a bit of butter with salt and pepper.  On top of the salad, I grilled a simple (and cheap – often for as low as 2.99 a pound) London broil cut steak.  But any choice of an additional meat and vegetable will make this light salad into a heartier (but not overly filling) meal.

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