Gourmet (September 2009)
We're total suckers for beets. We love 'em. Mixed with bright citrus flavors, they're heavenly. Matched with a good goat cheese, they're mouthwatering. We've paired them with country ham and cornbread, with green beans and mustard and as the focal point of a fancy little appetizer.
But there's one problem we always encounter, a daunting, sigh-inducing hurdle that makes cooking with beets feel like a big undertaking: Ya gotta roast 'em.
Beets taste amazing, but these root vegetables are so dense and hearty that you have to roast them in the oven for a long time to make them palatable. (It's the same reason you don't serve raw potatoes.)
So when we came across this Italian Parsley and Beet Salad in the September Gourmet, we were immediately intrigued for one major reason: raw beets.
This recipe solves the roasting conundrum in two ways: slicing the beets into very thin matchsticks and then soaking them in oil and citrus juices for a half hour. "Marinating" them in the dressing softens the beets and brings out more of their great flavor.
One note: This really is one of those recipes that's made infinitely easier if you have a mandoline slicer. It's certainly possible to cut these slices thinly with a knife -- but personally, our knife skills aren't that great. We're not big on kitchen gadgetry (or at least we try not to be), but our Oxo mandoline has really proven itself a valuable little tool.
As much as we've explored combining beets with other ingredients, Italian parsley was a new one for us. But it's absolutely spot-on. The parsley is a spicy, verdant match for the beets' earthy sweetness. And the ricotta adds a great, creamy depth.
It's a lovely salad. And, incidentally, it has stayed fresh and crisp in our refrigerator for several days. You could definitely make this salad days in advance of a meal, and it would really hold up nicely.
The only thing we'd change is that, next time, we'd follow the recipe's suggestion and get a mix of different varieties of beets. The salad we made was a gorgeous ruby hue, with deep garnet beets and the bolt of neon fuchsia from the onions. But how much more gorgeous would it be with a mix of golden and white beets?!
Still, we're just thrilled to find a raw-beet recipe. We'll definitely be preparing this salad many times in the future.
Yield: Makes 6 (first course) servingsActive time: 30 min
Total time: 1 hr
• 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
• 2 1/4 pounds assorted beets with greens (such as Chioggia, white, golden, and red; 1 1/2 pounds if already trimmed)
• 1/4 small red onion
• 1 1/4 cups Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves (from 1 bunch), torn if desired
Equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer
• Accompaniment: fresh ricotta or farmer cheese, or grated ricotta salata
Whisk together juices, oil, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large bowl.
Trim beets, leaving 1 inch of stems attached, then peel.
Using stems as a handle, slice beets paper-thin (less than 1/8 inch thick) with slicer (wear protective gloves to avoid staining hands), then cut slices into very thin matchsticks.
Thinly slice onion with slicer.
Toss beets, onion, and parsley with dressing and season with salt. Let stand, tossing occasionally, 30 minutes to soften beets and allow flavors to develop.
Toss again and season with salt and pepper before serving drizzled with additional oil.