Cook the Book: Roasted Beet Salad with Walnut Dressing and Cheese Crisps

[Photograph: Caroline Russock]

This time of year there is a lot of hubbub about stone fruits, berries, corn, and tomatoes, but I'd like to take a moment to talk about two vegetables that don't get too much summertime recognition—the beet and Swiss chard. Tiny, sweet beets have been at my local farmers' market ever since the weather has been warm, but I'd been passing them over in favor of the showier fruits and vegetables of summer up until recently. It was only when I got to the market a bit later than usual and the tables had been picked over that I decided to pick up a few golden beets and and a bunch of chard. These vegetables have always been more geared to fall and winter cooking (in my mind, at least), but in the warmer months their flavors are much more sweet and delicate.

Once I brought the beets and chard home I turned to the pages of Farm to Fork by Emeril Lagasse for a bit of inspiration. And what I found was this Roasted Beet Salad with Walnut Dressing and Cheese Crisps. Roasted beets? Yes, please. But raw chard? I had never used it in its raw state, but the young chard that I brought home had much thinner, softer leaves that seemed like they would work beautifully in a salad.

I roasted the beets, scrupulously washed and dried the chard and set about making the cheese crisps. In restaurant lingo these cheese crisps are referred to as tuiles, which makes them sound much fancier and more difficult than they actually are. When it comes down to it they are nothing more than shredded hard cheese that is baked on a parchment lined baking sheet until it reaches a golden potato chip-like color and texture, resulting in the most delicious salad garnish ever—a cheesy potato chip.

The dressing is a mix of Dijon, shallots, sherry vinegar, honey, and olive oil smoothly emulsified in the blender. When the greens, beets, and toasted walnuts were dressed and the plates garnished with the cheese crisps, this salad pretty couldn't have been any better. The beets were sweet, the greens fresh and peppery, the dressing tasted vibrantly of all of its sharp components, and the cheese crisps added an elegant visual element and satisfying and entirely cheesy crunch.

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Cook the Book: Roasted Beet Salad with Walnut Dressing and Cheese Crisps

About This Recipe

Yield:4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 small red and/or golden beets, tops removed, washed
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar or Banyuls vinegar (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 bunch baby dandelion greens, stems removed, leaves rinsed and cut into bite-size
  • (about 6 cups or 6 ounces of greens)
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard, stems removed, leaves rinsed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • Cheese Crisps (recipe follows)

Procedures

  1. 1

    Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  2. 2

    Cut a piece of aluminum foil about 12 inches square. On one half of the square, place the beets, 2 tablespoons olive oil, water, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Fold the opposite side of the foil over to cover the beets, and seal all the edges tightly to form a packet. Place the packet on a baking sheet, transfer it to the oven, and cook until the beets are tender, about 45 minutes. (The beets are done when a paring knife is easily inserted into the middle.) Remove the packet from the oven and set it aside, unopened, for about 10 minutes.

  3. 3

    Remove the beets from the foil packet. When the beets are cool enough to handle, gently rub off the skin, using a paper towel. Slice the beets into 1/4-inch thick rounds (use a mandoline if you have one), and set aside.

  4. 4

    Combine the vinegar, shallot, honey, mustard, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a blender, and mix well. While the blender is still running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, blending until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Transfer the dressing to a mixing bowl, and stir in the walnuts and tarragon.

  5. 5

    Place the dandelion greens and the chard in a large bowl. Pour 2 tablespoons (or more to taste) of the dressing over the greens, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to coat. In a separate mixing bowl, toss the sliced beets in 1 tablespoon of the dressing, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

  6. 6

    Divide the greens among four to six serving plates, and garnish with the sliced beets and the Cheese Crisps. If desired, spoon more dressing over each salad.

  7. 7

    Note: Banyuls vinegar is made from Banyuls wine, which is a fortified wine from southern France and is considered to be the French version of port. Banyuls vinegar has a sweet and nutty flavor, which is generally thought to be milder than red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar. It tastes something like a cross between balsamic vinegar and sherry vinegar and either can be used as a good substitute. Banyuls vinegar can be found in specialty markets.

  8. 8

    Cheese Crisps

  9. 9

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat, or parchment paper.

  10. 10

    Spacing them 1 to 2 inches apart, place 1-tablespoon mounds of the cheese on the Silpat. Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook until the cheese melts and turns golden brown, about 7 minutes.

  11. 11

    Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on the baking sheet. Use the crisps as a garnish for soups and salads.

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