colorful beet salad

some new friends came over for dinner recently and i wanted to make something really special. the caveat was that it also had to be easy, and quickly assembled after a day of work- often a time when you're not the sharpest (i'm usually prone to dropping things). in addition to pork tenderloin and a super-impressive-but-surprisingly-easy mushroom tart, there was still a salad left to concoct. i remember reading somewhere about a beet salad and thought it would be a earthly, bright alternative to the boring (but lovable!) green salad. since there were both golden and red beets available, i picked up some of each and also a couple black radishes. after adding a bunch of parsley and generous douse of homemade shallot-mustard vinaigrette, it was done. i can safely say it was a winner in both the taste and looks departments- i noticed that even an avowed vegetable hater (you know who you are...) cleaned his plate of it. on the other hand, he didn't put very much on in the first place…!

funnily enough, as much as i love beets now, i had not really had a beet (unless you count a canned one- but i don't count canned vegetables because they rarely resemble fresh ones- asparagus is a good case in point-yeeeck) until my sophomore year of college when i was invited to the birthday party of a friend who worked at the union square greenmarket. for those that don't know, the union square greenmarket is one of the largest farmers markets in the united states; bringing fresh, local, often unique produce right to the heart of the city. since gabrielle worked at the market, she got first pick of produce, but more often, would receive gifts from farmers of some of their best crops. at her birthday she had a little platter of roasted baby beets sprinkled with sea salt. they looked so pretty just sitting there with their festive red coats and glittery salt, tall leafy stems providing a perfect handle- even though i had no idea what i was getting into, i just couldn't resist. in the same way that oysters taste of the sea, i feel like beets taste of the earth- sweet, dark and pungent. and the red ones have that staining color that is like an public initiation: look- she ate at beet. i did. and i'm happy to eat many, many more.

colorful beet salad

3 medium red beets
3 medium golden beets
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
1 black radish (you can also use a couple of the regular small red ones)

for vinaigrette;
olive oil
1 shallot
strong dijon mustard (i use this one)
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

mince shallot finely. heat up 1/4 cup oil in a small saucepan over low heat. add shallot. heat for approx. 5 mins, stirring. remove from heat and let cool.
when cool, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of mustard and whisk until emulsified. stream in 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste. you can tinker with the proportions of each of these ingredients to suit your palate, but remember that most vinaigrettes have a ration of 3:1 or 2:1 oil and vinegar.

roast beets:
scrub beets of all loose dirt. toss whole beets in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. place on foil wrapped baking sheet and cover with another sheet of foil to seal. roast in a 425F oven for 50-60 mins, or until a skewer comes out easily.
let cool slightly, and place individually in a paper bag. (those large ones you get at the grocery store are great) shake the beet around in the bag until the skins come off- repeat for each beet. (a great workout!) cut and separate the red from the golden until the last minute- i stored them in two separate bowls in the fridge.

when the time comes to assemble the salad, roughly chop about half the bunch of parsley. combine beets, add parsley, shave some of the radish on top and toss with the vinaigrette. it is great at room temperature and even better cold, straight out of the fridge.
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