I love beets in every form they come. Actually, that's a blatant lie. I love beets in all the forms I now eat them, which, if you're into math and such, is the inverted set of all of the ways I used to eat them. As a kid, I only ever had beets served out of a can by way of a cafeteria chafing dish, or perhaps pickled, out of a jar. Those are both terrible ways to learn to love beets, which is perhaps why so many people dislike them.
My favorite way to prepare beets is like this, roasted in a foil packet in the oven. It's a method that concentrates their flavor and breaks down some of their starches, intensifying their natural sweetness. You know that episode of The Office where Michael tells Dwight that nobody likes beets and that instead of farming them, Dwight should farm candy? Well, if you've ever had properly roasted beets, you'd know that they essentially are candy. Sweet, aromatic, and flavor-packed.
The only issue with roasting them is that it does take some time. At least an hour or so. A much faster way to enjoy their natural sweetness is to slice them paper thin on a Japanese mandoline. By doing this, you release a lot of their natural sugars. Tossed with a simple vinaigrette, they become an ideal addition to a salad of hearty winter greens like endive, frisée, and radicchio, their sweetness complemented by the bitter bite of the greens (make sure to save the best-looking beet greens for the salad as well!).
I prefer to use golden or chioggia beets for a salad, as they won't stain the rest of your greens the way red beets do. Chioggia beets are especially nice because of the gorgeous candy-striped interiors they have when raw. (When making salad, looking good is half—or at least a good third—of the battle.)
For this particular salad, in addition to the sliced beets, I also added a watermelon radish. I've got the mandoline out, might as well make use of it, right?
There was a time in my life when I would have made proper croutons for some crunch. These days, I just keep a steady supply of toasted seeds in my pantry. Sunflower and pumpkin are great, as are the flax seeds I used here. I love how, unlike croutons, they coat every bite with little pockets of crunch and flavor.
So far we've got sweet, bitter, acidic (from the vinaigrette), fresh, and crunchy covered. All we're missing is that savory punch (see how you should be thinking about salads?). Some shaved Parmesan makes that an easy fix. Never in my life did I think I'd be using the word "fun" to describe something involving beets, but, well, this salad is fun, so there you go.
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