Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Roasted Beet Salad with Whipped Goat Cheese and Maple Balsamic Dressing

When I was in California back in June I had the pleasure to eat at Chef Tyler Florence's San Francisco restaurant Wayfare Tavern. It was a fantastic meal -- the starters, avocado salad and bacon-wrapped dates, were particularly memorable as were the popovers -- and one that has inspired me to try a few new things in the kitchen since getting back.

Up until a few years ago I was a beet hater. Probably because of the fuschia-tinted pickled variety I was used to growing up, a mainstay at family dinners (I think my grandpa was the only one who liked them). But I recall having a roasted beet salad at a downtown restaurant and realizing just how delicious a beet could be -- earthy and sweet, slightly warm, and dressed with a simple citrus vinaigrette. I think there must have been some goat cheese in there as well, because beets and goat cheese are genius together.

I've made beet and goat cheese salads before but I had to try Chef Florence's version (from his cookbook Family Meal) because I love the way he'll take a fairly straightforward recipe and make it into something truly special without a lot of extra effort. That was definitely the case here, where whipping the goat cheese until fluffy, adding chopped almonds, and finishing with a maple-spiked dressing made the salad that much better, especially in the texture department.

Roasted Beet Salad with Whipped Goat Cheese and Maple Balsamic Dressing
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds baby beets, preferably a mix of red and yellow
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 oz fresh goat cheese
1/2 cup Marcona almonds (or regular whole almonds, skins-on but not roasted)
1/4 cup micro arugula or pea sprouts (I used fresh basil)

Maple Balsamic Dressing:

1 shallot, finely minced
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the dressing: Combine shallot, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup in small jar with tight-fitting lid. Season with salt and pepper. Shake until well mixed.

Preheat oven to 400F. Wash the beets well and trim the root end. Cut two 12-inch sheets of aluminum foil. Lay one piece of foil on your work surface and put the beets in the center. Drizzle with a three-count of olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme, salt and pepper. Cover with a second piece of foil and crimp the edges several times to make a pouch. Place the pouch on a baking sheet and roast the beets for about 1 hour or until a knife pierces a beet smoothly. (You can stick the knife right through the foil.) Take the pouch out of the oven, open it up to let the beets cool, and then peel the beets and cut each into 4 wedges.

Place the goat cheese in a mixing bowl and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Beat vigorously with a whisk until the oil and goat cheese are combined and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the salads, dollop the goat cheese mixture onto a serving plate. Scatter the beets and chopped almonds over the goat cheese and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with arugula.

Source: Tyler Florence Family Meal, Tyler Florence, Rodale, 2010

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