weekend class: roasted beet and blood orange salad

weekend class = learning a thing or two about cooking and dining well. techniques, ingredients, recipes projects that definitely need to be tackled on the weekend. the result? weekend-class fare, of course.

There is a place for salads in winter. A particular kind of salad, and one that you are not likely to want or have in the summer. This type of salad in question is confident and outspoken.
It is sometimes late-Friday-night surly, all tangy and a touch bitter, and sometimes it is Sunday-dinner filling, with all kinds of carbs and proteins landing with a thud in your bowl. And when the salad involves roasting ingredients, you almost always restrict it’s invitation to winter, don’t you? This recipe I’m sharing is not my creation but one I was compelled to make this winter, and one I reserved for weekend cooking because while easy to make, there are several components. A couple of recipes within this recipe. The resulting salad is definitely as brazen as the winter salads I described. Powerful. Violent even–the dressing at least.

Well look at it. That is violent pink if I ever saw it and wait until you taste it. It’s not for the timid and in my opinion, it can’t really share the table with anything other than a docile piece of bread. My appreciation of the sharp-as-a-scolding dressing was acquired over many bites. I teetered on not liking it, but the enthusiastic acceptance and praise by everyone else at the table (a diverse group, too) helped me see its finer points. It saved the salad from being that fine but all too common roasted beet and nut salad you still see on all too many menus. And though I’m not one of those people that thinks every star ingredient needs a foil, this vinaigrette which gets it’s kick from raw shallots is a nice partner for those beets, if–and this is what I will do differently next time–you dress the salad as you go. The amount on the beets alone, and maybe a splash off a fork thrown from a distance, is all I’d need on my greens on a normal day. If you’re feeling like you can go head to head with a stronger salad, get as surly as you want, I’ll get right out of your way.

This salad is from that great cookbook that I was gifted recently, and the recipe is from that awesome restaurant in Brooklyn I raved about–the one where I had that killer other salad that spawned this recipe. I think it’s worth checking making while you still feel like roasting vegetables. Oh–and do not waste that garlic that the recipe has you roast for the sole purpose of infusing the beets. Much less violent than anything above, you need to spread those cloves on hot, buttered baguette and sprinkle with sea salt and the roasted rosemary too for the garlic bread of your fantasies.

Roasted Beet and Blood Orange Salad with Arugula, Macadamia Nuts, and Goat’s Milk Yogurt Dressing
(A Five Leaves Restaurant recipe via The New Brooklyn Cookbook) 

For the beets
3 medium red beets, about 4 ounces each, stems and root ends removed
2 medium golden beets, about 4 ounces each, stems and root ends removed
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 fresh rosemary sprig
2 garlic heads, broken into cloves, skins on, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups coarse salt, plus more to taste

For the yogurt dressing
6 ounces goats milk yogurt
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon honey
Pinch of cayenne pepper

For the vinaigrette
2 shallots, peeled
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup whole macadamia nuts
6 ounces baby arugula, about 4 cups
3 blood oranges (about 1 pound), peeled and sliced into rounds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash the beets and pat them dry. In a large bowl, toss the beets with the herbs, garlic, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Cover the bottom of a square baking pan with the two cups salt. Set the beets, herbs and garlic on top of the salt, cover the dish with foil, and bake until the beets are tender when pierced with a sharp knife, about 75 minutes.

Set the pan aside to allow the beets to cool, then peel the beets and cut them into wedges, reserving half of 1 red beet for the vinaigrette. Keep the red beets and golden beets separate or their colors will bleed together.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

To make the yogurt dressing, combine the yogurt, zest, honey, and cayenne in a small bowl. Set aside.

To make the vinaigrette, in a blender or food processor, puree the shallots and the roasted red beet half with the vinegar and mustard. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream, blending until emulsified.

Place the macadamia nuts in a shallow baking dish in a single layer. Bake for three to five minutes, shaking the pan once halfway through to evenly brown. Allow to cool slightly, then roughly chop.

Combine the red and yellow beets with half the yogurt mixture in a medium bowl and toss to coat. In another bowl, toss the arugula with the beet vinaigrette to coat.

To serve, divide the beets and blood orange slices among the four to six plates, top with the arugula, and garnish with the macadamias and a drizzle of the remaining yogurt dressing.

Serves 4 to 6 as a first course.