Sunday, April 4, 2010

Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans

All of this glorious spring weather has made me yearn for salads.  Every time spring rolls around I go through a brief period of craving and eating salads by the bowlful.  Then it ends.  A diet built on salads certainly is not meant to last.  One of my favorite salads is mixed greens with roasted beets and goat cheese.  Another favorite is fatoosh - a Middle Eastern salad made with romaine, toasted pita bread, roma tomatoes, and cucumbers.  I briefly considered making fatoosh for dinner this evening, but the bodega was out of both roma tomatoes and English cucumbers.  Oh well.  After a delicious dinner at Joseph Leonard in the West Village last week where I tried their beet salad with goat cheese croquettes and olive toast, I have been going on and on about how we should make roasted beets at home.  Generally I have a no roasted beets at home policy because the whole process takes awhile and stains my hands bright magenta.  But policies like that are just meant to be broken.  Tonight seemed like the perfect opportunity.  

When we started thinking about a salad built around roasted beets, I knew I wanted to pair it with goat cheese and candied pecans.  I love the addition of candied pecans - sweet with honey, and spicy with cayenne - in almost any salad.  They make everything better.  Actually, I don't even need salad to eat them.  I can eat them by the handful all by themselves.  Yum.  Goat cheese and beets are such a natural pairing.  The sweetness of the beets, paired with the creaminess of the goat cheese is dynamite.  Throw in a nice red wine and sherry vinaigrette and some candied pecans and you have a fantastic salad.  We paired the salad with some stracciatella soup that we made with our homemade chicken stock.  I never thought that homemade chicken stock was worth the trouble when they sell perfectly decent stock in a box, but it really is worth it.  In the homemade stock you could actually taste the herbs (fresh thyme and parsley) and the other vegetables that I made the stock with.  And it tasted deeper and richer than the pre-made stocks.  I'm certainly not going to whip up a batch of homemade stock every time I need chicken stock to make soup, but this certainly won't be the last time I make homemade stock - particularly now that we know how to debone a whole chicken!

Recipe after the jump!

Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans

2 bunches baby beets (roughly 2 lbs)
2 tbsp evoo
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt, separated
1/2 cup pecans
3 tbsp honey, separated
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
5 oz. mixed greens
6 tbsp good quality evoo
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp  sherry vinegar
3/4 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Rinse beets and trim off beet greens/stems.  Drizzle beets with 2 tbsp evoo and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Wrap beets in aluminum foil.  Roast the beets until tender when pierced with a fork, roughly 45 minutes-1 hour.  Allow to cool before peeling the beets.  Slice beets into wedges, roughly 6-8 wedges per beet, depending on the size of the beets.

While the beets are cooling, toss pecans with 2 tbsp honey, cayenne pepper and 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  Spray baking sheet with nonstick baking spray.  Spread pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for 8 minutes and remove the nuts from oven.  Add remaining 1 tbsp honey, stir, and return to oven.  Roast until the nuts are golden brown, roughly an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Stir again to combine.  Allow to cool.

Combine sliced beets, mixed greens and pecans in a large mixing bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 6 tbsp evoo, red wine vinegar, sea salt and black pepper.  Drizzle over the salad and toss to coat.  Top salad with crumbled goat cheese.  

Serve immediately.

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