March To A Different Beet

Every time I am at a market, I hear from more and more of you about how you made this recipe or how you are going to make that recipe featured on this blog. Or that you are sharing this blog with friends. And that you really enjoy what happens here.

And that makes me very happy. So thank you.

Honestly, with each of these conversations, I am more and more relieved to know that what I make inspires you. It's obvious by now that I prepare and eat some unusual things and I realize that. Not everyone thinks cauliflower rice is an acceptable replacement for rice, though we served it recently with stir-fry and it was really hard to tell that we weren't eating rice.

But what shocks me the most is that so many of you love beets. Yes, you read right. There is a significant and growing contingency of beet lovers out there.

Perhaps they hide, in hopes you will not find them for fear of what you might say or do. But they exist. And they are coming out of hiding more and more these days, because, when prepared properly, beets are truly remarkable rubies that are earthy, sweet and nutritionally dense. Did you know that the leaves are edible and possibly more nutritious than the roots?

How these discussions lead to the topic of beets, I have no idea. Maybe it's that beets are in peak mode right now and we are all buying them in copious bunches. Whether you prefer red beets, golden beets or the bedazzling striped beets, this virtuous root vegetables are on your minds and in your hearts.

To honor this obsession, I would be remiss not to share another new way I have discovered to eat beets. Just in case you missed the first beet salad I made, I am sure you'll want to start with that recipe because this is the salad that reformed my husband from a beet-hating, carnivorous man to one who actually requests them when they are in season.

Beets go extremely well with grilled meats, so perhaps you'll consider serving this beet salad with grilled meat? You may just reform another beet-hating person.

Buen provecho!
Roasted Beet Salad with Oranges, Fennel and Hazelnuts over Watercress
Adapted by The Cowgirl Gourmet ( from a recipe in Bon Appetit's October 2006 issue as provided by Chef Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar and Grill

Print recipe

This salad is super colorful and the textures and flavors so fresh and alive. While it may seem detailed and call for many ingredients, each one has its place and purpose and they all come together harmoniously.

But know that this recipe can also be made according to what you have on hand or what you can find. For example, don't have any hazelnuts? Just replace them with walnuts. Exchange the oranges for blood oranges and the balsamic vinegar with red wine vinegar. I made it without any cheese, though the original recipe calls for feta...I would prefer goat cheese.

Be sure to reserve the young, tender beet leaves and chiffonade them for sprinkling on top of the salad.

Serves 4

4 beets, you can use golden or red or a combination, all but 1-inch of top trimmed and washed well, reserving the young, small and tender beet greens for garnish
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Dash of Kosher salt

Zest of 1 orange
3 oranges or combination oranges and blood oranges, cut into segments
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered, cored and cut into paper-thin strips
1/4 cup, toasted hazelnuts, lightly cracked
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of the fresh orange juice (which you will get from cutting the segments)
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper, though black pepper also works
1 bunch of fresh watercress, washed, dried and any big stems removed
1/2 cup feta or goat cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash the beets well and reserve any small, young and tender leaves for garnish. You can thinly slice the leaves just before serving and sprinkle them on top of the salad for additional nutrients, texture and flavor.

On a large piece of aluminum foil, place the washed and trimmed beets. Drizzle 1 Tablespoon olive oil and rub the oil into the beets. Sprinkle a dash of Kosher salt over the beets. Wrap tightly in the aluminum foil and place package in the oven. Cook about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours until tender. Uncover and allow to cool.

When you can touch the beets, gather some paper towels in your hands and begin to remove the skin of the beets using your fingers. But be careful not to stain your clothes. And be sure to wash your hands immediately after peeling all four beets.

Slice the beets and cut them into chunks or quarters. Place beets in a bowl or container and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You may do this 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Zest 1 orange and reserve in salad dressing bowl. Cut all peel and pith off oranges. Working over an empty bowl to catch any juice, cut between the membranes, releasing the segments into the bowl.

Add 1 cup orange segments, sliced fennel, mint, hazelnuts and shallot to the bowl with the beets. Transfer 2 teaspoons of the fresh orange juice to the salad dressing bowl with the orange zest and whisk in vinegars and 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Season dressing with salt and pepper to taste, and add a little more olive oil if necessary. Spoon dressing over beet mixture and toss to combine.

Mound salad over fresh watercress leaves and top with any remaining orange segments. Sprinkle with feta or goat cheese, if desired, and beet greens for garnish.

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