My late spring salad: Beet, Chèvre, Arugula & Pine Nuts

So this is it. This is the salad that I wait all spring to make. It’s the chioggia beets you really can’t find in the winter here in Seattle. They’re still only available in the farmer’s markets – the weather has been so cold. This salad’s not fancy. Really, the vibe is more kitchen sink than thoughtfully composed. The varied textures: earthy and sweetly roasted chioggia beets, greenly cooling cucumbers, the sliced shallots pinked up in vinegar, providing a gently persistent bite – that’s what grabs me. Not to mention peppery arugula plus peppered spicy chèvre. Dotted with warmly toasted pine-nuts – I adore this salad. In fact, although it serves four, I would happily eat the whole thing, on it’s own, and call it dinner. (to give you an idea of just how greedy I am, this recipe lushly fills a 15 inch platter)

Beet, Chèvre, Arugula, Pine Nut Salad – serves 4

  • 4 small chioggia beets
  • 4 handfuls arugula, washed and dried
  • 1 medium sized shallot, sliced thin
  • 2 ounces fresh chèvre – with mixed peppercorns
  • half a peeled and seeded English cucumber, sliced
  • 2 tbsp champagne vinegar
  • 4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted in a skillet over medium heat for a few minutes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400
  2. Trim the beets, cutting off both tails and leafy tops. Wrap them in aluminum foil and place them in a small baking dish. Roast in the oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. If you are appalled at putting such a small dish in the oven at such a high temperature for 2 hours, you could always roast a chicken to go with it – that would be lovely. (of course if you don’t actually feel like roasting a chicken and all you really want is the darn beet salad and actually not 2 whole hours from now but in, like, 1/2 an hour I suppose you could always steam them in a little vegetable steamer. 20-40 minutes of steaming depending on how big the beets are. It won’t be quite as good but it will still be pretty great.)
  3. While the beets are cooking, put the shallot slices into a small bowl with the champagne vinegar. Manipulate the slices with your fingers to separate the rings and to make sure that they become saturated with vinegar.
  4. When the beets are done, you’ll be able to push a fork into them. Don’t wait until they’re mushy and don’t take them out when they’re still crunchy. If you cook them early in the day they can sit on the counter until you are ready to peel them, slice them and put them in the salad. A cooked beet should NEVER see the inside of the fridge. They become horribly watery and mushy.
  5. Add 4 tbsp olive oil to the bowl with vinegar and shallots. Whisk with a fork and taste – it should be nicely balanced without aggressive acidity. Add 1/4 tsp sea salt and taste again. You may like up to 2 more tbsp of olive oil. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  6. Peel the beets and slice them into 1/8ths.
  7. On a large platter, arrange a bed of arugula. Scatter the cucumbers and beets over the greens. Then crumble the chèvre over everything. Toss the pine nuts evenly over the top and finally dress lightly, you may not have to use all the dressing. Be sure to fish out all the shallots and include them – they add so much flavor and delicate color!
  8. Quickly get out your camera and take a picture before you eat the whole thing! I forgot to take a picture until it was nearly gone last time, as you can see:

So of course I had to make it again the next day!

(Sometimes I make a variation of this salad that includes roast asparagus – which may seem over-the-top and disorganized but I have to confess that I love it. Smoky toasted asparagus and smoky roasted beets – lovely. You can see I included tomatoes here – probably wouldn’t do that again. They weren’t offensive but they added nothing.)


 

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