Simply Roasted Beet Salad with Fresh Mint

Roast some beets for a jewel-box salad
Let’s talk about beet love.

The thing about beets is this: People tend to either devour them with joyful greed, like a dog might Hoover up a hunk of smoked turkey bacon off the floor, or spit them out in disgust after mistaking their glistening, jeweled beauty for some kind of exotic fruit. There’s no middle ground, no room for wishy-washy ambivalence when it comes to loving beets.

In the history of me, there was a time when I belonged to the latter camp. I found the curiously earthy nature of beets overwhelmingly and distractingly….dirty. Because let’s face it – along with the surprising sugary-sweetness of beets is the underlying, penetrating flavor of the earth in which they grow.

That combination of dirty-sweetness is kind of what I imagined a wad of mud rolled in honey might taste like.

It wasn’t until I worked the salad station in a restaurant kitchen that I became attached to beets in a more sensory way. One of the dishes I was responsible for was a salad topped with goat cheese and balsamic marinated roasted beets. I roasted, peeled and chopped umpteen pounds of beets, staining my hands a startling shade of magenta. I tossed and tasted all those beets to make sure they were cooked and seasoned just right.

Maybe it was that day-to-day intimacy with beets that converted me in the end, but I came around. I crossed over to the world of beet love.

I still prefer roasting to any other method of cooking beets; probably because it’s so easy to wrap them up and stick them in a hot oven, where they pretty much take care of business all by themselves. And I can’t resist beets that are colored vivid orange or the gorgeous candy-striped Chioggia varieties.

Beets have a particular affinity for things tangy; like fresh soft goat cheese, mild vinegars and citrus juices, making them perfect for salads.

I hesitate to call the following a recipe. Consider it more of a method, to ready your beets for a simple toss with olive oil, some fresh herbs, and your tangy ingredient of choice.

Simply Roasted Beet Salad with Fresh Mint

To roast your beets, trim off the greens (save those if they are in good shape and chop some up for your salad) and place them on a sheet of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little drizzle of olive oil.

Roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. You’ll know they’re just about done when the kitchen takes on a pleasing aroma and the beets offer no resistance when you poke a sharp knife into them.

Let them cool a bit before slipping off the skin and slicing.

Toss the beets with some of your best olive oil, salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon or orange juice. Sprinkle with chopped mint, some crumbled goat cheese and serve over salad greens.

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Copyright (c) 2008 FamilyStyle Food

No-Cook Summer Recipe: Tabbouleh with Fresh Basil

What to make when it’s too hot to cook
Do you ever feel like you’re in a food rut?

I think we all get into a habit of cooking and eating certain things over and over again, either because your seven year old whines for it on a daily basis or simply because you can whip it up with your eyes closed and one hand tied behind your back.

Although my pantry shelves are sagging under the weight of a large array of boxes, bags and jars – all the interesting ingredients I can’t seem to stop myself from collecting for experimentation purposes, I’ve been watching myself reach for the same things to serve as the basis of a quick, one-dish meal when dinner time is nigh and I don’t have a plan; usually some kind of pasta or couscous.

Somewhere along the line I’ve strayed away from good old bulgur. Remember tabbouleh? All you need is hot water and it magically swells into a nourishing meal.

Way back before we made couscous the new “instant” side dish, there was tabbouleh to save the day. Many a college dorm room or apartment kitchen of mine was scented by that little spice packet that came in the tabbouleh box, with its telltale aroma of dried mint and slightly stale cumin.

I had a few friends over for a summer dinner party the other night, and wanted to have most everything made ahead. I had a Middle Eastern flavor theme going, so pulled out one of my favorite cookbooks, Spice by Ana Sortun, and there was a recipe for tabbouleh that jumped out at me.

It turned out to be the perfect thing to round out a summer meal – fast, fresh and I didn’t have to cook it! Well, not unless you count boiling water as cooking.

What I loved about this version was that it uses basil and walnuts, which was a nice twist on the usual parsley-mint-tomato combo.

Summer Tabbouleh with Fresh Basil

Adapted from Spice by Ana Sortun

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 small red onion or shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup fine or medium bulgur
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
1 cup toasted walnuts or almonds
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine lemon juice, onion, garlic and salt. Let sit about 5 minutes to soften the onion.

Stir in the bulgur along with 1/4 cup hot water. Cover and let stand about 15 minutes, or until the bulgur swells and is tender. Add a bit more water, if needed, if the bulgur is still chewy, and cover until absorbed.

Pulse the basil, parsley, nuts and oil in a food processor until a paste forms. Season with salt and pepper. Add the paste to the bulgur and stir to blend.

Serve topped with grated sharp cheese (such as feta) and toasted pita bread.

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Peanut Shrimp Salad – It’s a Winner!

My peanut-crusted shrimp salad with basil-lime dressing (photo: MyRecipes.com)

Wow! I’m back after a great trip to Birmingham, where I was lucky to be chosen as a $10,000 category winner in the Southern Living Cook-Off.

All I can say is that the folks at Southern Progress, who also publish Cooking Light, Cottage Living, Sunset and numerous other lifestyle magazines, not only know how to throw a cook-off, but are an amazingly talented, passionate and hospitable group. You get the feeling that they love going to work every day.

I made some new friends, caught up with some old ones and even got that relaxing massage.

The grand prize winning recipe, Roasted Banana Ice Cream with Warm Peanut Butter Sauce, looks wonderfully decadent with lots of Southern style. My only problem with it is that I have an allergy to bananas and I won’t be able to try it!

Peanut Crunch Shrimp Salad with Basil-Lime Dressing
Makes 4 servings

Basil-Lime Dressing:
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Crisco Pure Peanut Oil
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon Domino Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon Asian chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced

Shrimp Salad:
1 cup panko crumbs
1/2 cup USA-Grown Dry Roasted Salted Peanuts
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Collection Red Curry Powder
20 jumbo Certified Wild American Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons Crisco Pure Peanut Oil
3 cups mixed baby salad greens
1 cup diced English cucumber
1 cup peeled diced mango
1/2 cup mung bean sprouts
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
3 green onions, trimmed; white and light green parts sliced into matchsticks
1/4 cup USA-Grown Dry Roasted Salted Peanuts, chopped

1. To prepare Basil-Lime Dressing, puree all ingredients in a food processor. Set aside.

2. Pulse panko, peanuts, cornstarch and curry powder in food processor until fine crumbs form; transfer to a pie plate.

3. Toss shrimp with the egg in a large bowl. Dredge shrimp in peanut mixture to coat.

4. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Place shrimp in skillet; cook shrimp 3 minutes per side, or until golden.

5. Gently toss greens, cucumber, mango, bean sprouts, mint and onions in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons Basil-Lime Dressing. Arrange salad on individual serving plates; top each with 5 shrimp; sprinkle with peanuts and drizzle with remaining dressing.

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