№ 77 - Beets, Hazelnuts, Rocastin
Beets aren't universally loved, but I've been able to convert a few haters into fans with this elegant salad that foregoes the usual pickling in favor of the beets' own sweet, earthy flavors. Instead of the more typical goat cheese I add a bit of soft sheep's or cow's milk cheese - a great match in the absence of vinegar. Toasted hazelnuts for crunch round out the dish.
While I love the taste of this salad, I'm equally excited about its looks: the contrast between the dark red and bright orange beets and the almost white chopped nuts is striking. Vegetable candy!
Note that the recipe calls for blanched (i.e. peeled) hazelnuts but if you can't find them you can roast skin-on hazelnuts as directed and then remove most of the skin yourself by rubbing the nuts against each other in your hands.
If you're looking for something to do with your beet tops, why not serve my fusili with beet greens and fennel sausage as your main course?
Serves 4 as an appetizer
2 oz Berger de Rocastin, Saint-Marcellin, Saint-Félicien or other very soft, not too sharp sheep's or cow's milk cheese
16 blanched (peeled) hazelnuts. Or unpeeled hazelnuts (see note above).
A few sprinkles of micro greens belonging to the brassica family for garnish, such as micro radish, micro cress or micro wasabi (optional)
1 Tbsp hazelnut oil
1 Tbps olive oil
Fine sea salt to taste
Cut any greens/stems to within ½-inch of the bulb and place each color of beets in a separate baking dish with some salt. Fill each dish with water ¼-inch deep and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 375F until the beets are cooked, between 1 and 2 hours, depending on their size. Meanwhile, roast the hazelnuts in the same oven for 10 minutes (use a timer!). Test for doneness of the beets by inserting a small knife into the largest beet near the stem end - cooked beets easily yield to the knife. Let the beets cool enough to touch, cut off the root and stem ends and rub off the skins with your fingers or, if necessary, with a small knife. Slice into attractive bite-sized chunks and place each color into separate bowls. Dress with the olive and hazelnut oils and salt to taste.
Crush the hazelnuts a little under a cutting board and chop coarsely. Using a soft baking spatula, smear the cheese into the middle of 4 small serving plates or bowls. Taste the beets for salt once more and arrange in the serving dishes on top of the cheese. Sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts and micro brassicas (if using) and serve.