Cook from the Book

For the first time, ever, I did not stuff myself on Thanksgiving. In fact, it was such a non-stuffing kind of holiday, we already have a tentative menu planned for Christmas. Traditionally, we eat so much on Thanksgiving, we consider skipping Christmas meals altogether and opt for just a few snacks instead of the full meal deal ordeal.

But not this year. We did it right and I am so happy. (It only took me four decades to figure that one out.)

I am also thankful that the Community Cook Book is officially at the printer. After weeks and weeks of editing, calling, texting, messaging and emailing to verify facts and figures from 70 different people, it's done.

We'll debut the 125+ page book filled with 79 seasonal recipes from market members, local chefs, culinary professionals and customers at this Sunday's market--just in time for the holidays.

Considering beet season is just starting, I came home with a gorgeous bunch of red beets this week. With the cookbook and all of those fantastic recipes still on my mind, I decided to make Hinnerk von Bargen's roasted beet salad with toasted hazelnuts and red onions.
Hinnerk's wife is Ming Qian, of Ming's Thing, at the market. They are one of the most popular vendors and people line up for sloopy wangs, Chinese chili dogs, PB&K (pork belly and kale on a bun), artisan sausages, pork belly and Chinese sauces. On top of this, Hinnerk is an associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America-San Antonio. Clearly, this couple can cook.

I know this salad is a winner because David and I fell in love with it one night when we were invited to enjoy an Italian feast created by students at the CIA. It was in late August when we had this spectacular dinner that included mounds and mounds of classic Italian dishes, but it was this particular beet salad that stole my heart. (This salad is not pictured in the picture below, but it was sitting on the lower left-hand corner of the table. And that is Chef von Bargen's hand pointing as he was identifying all of the dishes for us.)
Two servings later, I remember mentioning to Hinnerk that I wanted the recipe, and even though I didn't get the recipe that night, I did take home the leftover beet salad. Then I then schlepped the salad to the coast for our family's Labor Day celebration. We all oohed and aahed over the salad--the texture, the tang, the touch of sweetness, the crunch factor, the earthiness. We fought over the last few bites and I promised my cousins I would find out how to make it.

Naturally, when I was rounding-up recipes for the cookbook, I asked Hinnerk to contribute this specific recipe and he happily delivered. I was thrilled and I just know you will be as well once you whip this salad up.

Slightly tart from the vinegar and a touch of sweetness from the sugar makes every bite of this agrodolce beet salad memorable. Add the toasted hazelnuts and you may want to make this dish again. And again. It's pretty spectacular. And it's red to boot. Just in time for the holidays.

Buen provecho!
Beet Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts and Red Onions
The Cowgirl Gourmet coaxed this recipe out of Chef Hinnerk von Bargen, Ming’s Thing and Associate Professor at the Culinary Institute of America-San Antonio, and included it in the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market Community Cook Book, Vol. 1

Print recipe

This beet salad is typical of one you might find on an antipasti platter in Northern Italy. I think the crunchy hazelnuts pair beautifully with the earthy roasted beets and the red onions provide the perfect hint of sweetness to make this beet salad truly memorable.

Serves 5

1 pound red beets        
½ cup hazelnuts, peeled     
2 tablespoons chives, sliced finely

¼ cup water
3 tablespoons white vinegar, or more to taste
1 tablespoon sugar, or more to taste
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
1 bay leaf
Salt, black pepper as needed
1/3 red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Remove roots and leaves from the beets, scrub gently and roast at 400 degrees or until tender. This will take about 40 minutes to 1 hour or a little longer, depending on the size of the beets. Once tender, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Using paper towels--so as not to stain your hands--peel the beets, slice and set aside.
On a sheet pan in the oven, toast the hazelnuts until they turn golden brown and the smell of roasted nuts fills the house. Allow to cool and chop in a food processor so they are lightly crushed.

Combine all dressing ingredients, except the olive oil, in a stainless steel saucepan and simmer slowly for about five minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, vinegar and sugar as desired.
Add the olive oil to dressing, and toss gently with the beets, hazelnuts and red onions and adjust seasoning as desired.
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