Beets were a vegetable that I absolutely detested while growing up. I really was not a picky eater at all, but beets were, in my opinion, one of the most disgusting things a person could eat. On a few occasions, my parents would try to convince us kids that beets are so sweet and rich that they "almost taste like candy." Their ploy might have succeeded in conning us into trying a beet, but after that first miserable bite all of us concurred that beets do not taste anything like candy. As in, if the neighbors suddenly started passing out beets instead of lollipops, licorice, and fun-size candy bars at Halloween, we would all most definitely forgo trick-or-treating that year.
I carried my disdain for beets well into college. When I first began dating my future husband, he revealed over a dinnertime conversation that he loved beets. I thought he was crazy and wondered how we could possibly make our relationship work if I hated something he loved so much.
Fast forward several years, Paul and I are newly married and enjoying dinner at a fine restaurant. On the menu was a roasted beet salad with goat cheese and an ice wine gastrique. It sounded fascinating and I decided to order it even though I hate beets. I figured I would just push them off to the side. But oh my word, when that salad arrived it looked so beautiful and perfectly put together that I decided in a temporary moment of insanity to give the beets another chance. I am so glad I did - the flavor and texture of the roasted beets were fantastic! They married together so nicely with the sweet vinaigrette and the tangy goat cheese. I inhaled the salad and really don't remember anything else I had for dinner that night because to me that salad was a revelation. I did like beets - especially when roasted. Maybe my taste buds have matured since childhood or maybe it was the preparation that convinced me that beets can be palatable.
|Not a beet eater. Surprising, considering she eats anything else. Including cat food.|
|Not a beet eater. Totally unsurprising.|
This salad is a fantastic way to serve roasted vegetables. The vegetables are tossed with a tangy vinaigrette while hot and then allowed to sit as they absorb it. They end up being so incredibly flavorful. When paired with the peppery arugula and creamy feta, this is something I would not mind eating several times a week. Beets and carrots are so beautiful and abundant at the farmer's markets right now that I'm sure I'll be making this wonderful salad several more times before the summer is through.
Oh, and Paul convinced Matthew to try a piece of the roasted beets: "Here Matthew...it's a beet. It kind of tastes like candy!" (Not that lie again!)
Matthew, while thoughtfully chewing the beet: "I like it! I like the beet!"
Paul: "Want to try another one?"
Maybe one day he'll be a beet convert like his mother.
Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad with Arugula
adapted slightly from Cook's Illustrated Magazine, March/April 2008
1 pound beets, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges (cut the wedges in half crosswise if the beets are large)
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut on bias into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
6 ounces arugula (about 4 cups)
2-3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place large rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Toss beets and carrots with 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and sugar in large bowl. Remove baking sheet from oven and, working quickly, carefully transfer beets and carrots to sheet and spread in even layer. (Do not wash bowl.) Roast until vegetables are tender and well-browned on one side, 20 -25 minutes (do not stir during roasting).
Meanwhile, whisk remaining tablespoon oil, vinegar, sugar, shallots, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in now-empty bowl.
Toss hot vegetables with about 3/4 of the vinaigrette and cool until barely warm, about 20-30 minutes. Toss the arugula with the remaining vinaigrette and pile it onto a large serving platter. Arrange the roasted vegetables on top of the arugula. Sprinkle the feta cheese over the top of the vegetables. Serve!