Summer’s baby beets are an ideal starting point for conjuring up some inventive salad bowl mash ups that are sure to brighten up your summer table.
Garden to table without to much fuss is what summer eating is all about. With that in mind I put together this salad with what I found on a recent trip to my local organic farmers market and produce shop. Here in the tropics there is an abundance of vegetables, beautiful salad greens, and fruits to choose from year round. Oranges happen to be in season here at the moment and ideal for this salad, but apples, pears, or even melon would be a tantalizing choice. The romesco dressing is my own adaptation of the classic Catalonian romesco sauce that nicely ties all the salad ingredients together with a burst of nutty spiciness. For further reading on Romesco (click here)
Summer Baby Beet and Orange Salad with Romesco Dressing serves 4
Roasting mature beets in the fall does make perfect sense and delivers a deep beetroot flavor. However my preferred cooking method for these delicately flavored summer baby beets is a gentle boil with the added perk of not overheating your kitchen in the process.
Prepare the romesco dressing while the beets are cooking and refrigerate it so it is will be nicely chilled for dressing the salad later.
For the Salad
- 8 baby beets
- 1 small red onion or large red shallot
- 1 or 2 oranges
- 4 bunches romaine lettuce
- 1 large bunch of arugula (rocket)
- 1 small head crisp iceberg
- freshly ground pepper
- orange zest
Wash the beets and place in a sauce pan on the stove top. Bring to a boil, add salt, and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook the beets until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Test by easily inserting a toothpick into the center of the beet. Remove the beets and set aside to cool. Reserve the cooking water to use later.
When the beets are cool enough to handle slip off the skins and trim off the root ends. Thinly slice the beets crosswise and place in a bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil and set aside.
Remove the skin from the onion (or shallot) and thinly slice crosswise and separate into rings. Place in a bowl, cover with cold water, and refrigerate.
Zest the orange with a vegetable peeler. Very thinly slice the zest lengthwise and then slice very finely crosswise and set aside to use later for the dressing.
Peel the oranges, removing any pith, and slice crosswise into thin rounds. Halve the rounds, removing any seeds and place on a plate, cover, and refrigerate.
Wash all of the salad greens in salted ice water and spin dry. Cut the romaine leaves into bite size pieces and place in the salad bowl. Tear the iceberg and add to the bowl. Snap off any tough arugula stems and discard. Add the whole arugula leaves to the salad bowl unless they are very large, in which case tear them in half. Cover and refrigerate the salad greens until just before you are ready to serve.
Assembling the salad
Remove the bowl of salad greens from the refrigerator. Drain the onions and add to the chilled salad greens. Add the sliced beets and toss using your hands. Add some dressing and toss, adding more dressing as needed with out overdressing. Transfer the tossed salad to a large deep serving platter or individual serving plates. Tuck the sliced oranges into the salad and drizzle a little more dressing over the oranges. Lightly pepper the salad and scatter orange zest over all and serve.
- 8 partially sun dried tomatoes in olive oil (or reconstituted sun dried tomatoes
- 6 plump cloves garlic, skin on
- 1 dried red chile (New Mexico or 2 Thai)
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
- 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds, lightly toasted
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Jerez sherry vinegar
- sea salt, about 3/4 teaspoon or to taste
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon honey
- beet cooking water (for thinning)
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
Roast the garlic in a dry pan until lightly colored on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool. Then peel off and discard the skin.
Using the same dry pan toast the chile on both sides, pressing the chile against the bottom of the pan. Remove promptly, cool slightly, and then slice open lengthwise and remove all the seeds and discard them. Crumble the chile and set aside.
Using the same pan briefly toast the anise seeds until aromatic. Set aside to cool.
And finally, using the same pan, lightly toast the slivered almonds, tossing them continuously, until lightly colored and aromatic. Set aside to cool.
Using a food processor (or blender) combine the sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, crumbled dried chile, toasted almonds, and anise seeds and pulse until broken down and well combined. Add the wine and sherry vinegar and salt and pulse until incorporated.
Then with the motor running add the olive oil in a slow steady stream. The mixture will thicken into a stiff paste like inconstancy. Scrape down the sides of the processor and add the honey and a tablespoon of the beet cooking water. Pulse until combined. Then add another tablespoon beet cooking water and pulse. Continue adding the cooking water a tablespoon at a time until the dressing has the consistency of cream. You want the dressing to coat rather than clump to the salad ingredients.
Once the consistency is to your liking, taste and add more salt if needed. Then transfer the dressing to a non-reactive bowl and stir in the reserved orange zest. Cover and refrigerate until just before serving.