My boyfriend loves beets. Like he really loves them. Early in our relationship, long before I cooked for him regularly (long before I even knew how to cook, really), whenever I'd come over and he'd offer something to eat, it would often be beets. There was almost always a can of beets in his cupboard nestled between cans of baked beans and some sort of Progresso soup.
As I learned how to cook and the desire to make meals that I knew he'd love kicked in, I still never considered making beets. I think it was just because it didn't really dawn on me that there was anything to do with them, other than opening a can and heating them. In college I worked at a restaurant where we served a very generic house salad that was made unique only by the addition of a single beet and a new potato that was dyed blue for some reason. So that was pretty much my experience with beets.
Recently, for Memorial Day weekend I made a grilled, butterflied leg of lamb that I served with a honey, date barbeque sauce. In looking for something to serve alongside the lamb, I wanted to play up the Moroccan flavors. I found this recipe on Epicurious and it turned out, it just so happened to have been created by my favorite lady chef ever, Suzanne Goin. Her recipes are so reliable and as such I felt confident that this would be a winner. I liked the idea of combining the roasted beets with roasted carrots and the dressing, made from toasted cumin seeds sounded brilliant. The original recipe also includes a chickpea puree, sort of like a hummus but without tahini, and then the whole thing is served atop flatbread. As good as that sounded, I felt the beets and carrots would make a splendid side dish salad. One that I knew be beet loving BF would love.
(for the roasted beats)
10 medium beets (red and golden), cleaned and greens trimmed - do not cut off the stem and root ends as I did, during the roasting the juices will mix and discolor the golden beets.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup water
(for the roasted carrots)
6 medium carrots with green tops
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
(for the vinaigrette)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
(for the rest of the salad)
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 1 large)
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place beets in roasting pan; drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt; toss. Add 2/3 cup water to pan; arrange golden beets on 1 side of pan and red beets on other side. Cover with foil. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, trim green tops from carrots to 1 inch. Peel carrots and cut into thirds crosswise, then quarter lengthwise. Place carrots on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with thyme, salt, and pepper; toss to coat. Roast until carrots are tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
While the carrots and beets are roasting, make the vinaigrette. Stir cumin seeds in dry skillet over medium heat until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds to mortar or spice mill; grind finely. Place whole cumin seeds, ground cumin, and vinegar in small bowl; whisk in 1/2 cup oil. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
Once the roasted beets have cooled, use your fingers to rub peel off the beets. Cut each beet into 4 to 6 wedges, depending on the size of the beet. Place golden beets in medium bowl and red beets in separate medium bowl.
To make the salad, combine the parsley, shallots, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, carrots, and 2/3 of cumin vinaigrette in a large bowl with golden beets; toss to blend. Add remaining vinaigrette and 2 teaspoons lemon juice to bowl with red beets; toss to blend. Season both beet mixtures with salt and pepper.
Because the red beets with discolor the golden beets, wait until the very last minute to combine them, but don't toss them together. Mound the yellow beet and carrot mixture into a serving bowl or if you are plating a meal for your dining companions, on each individual plate, then tuck in wedges of the the red beets.
The roasted beets and carrots work really well together. The beets taste bright and fresh, while the carrots are a bit more rich. They're both sweet but in different ways, their flavors contrasted nicely by the smoky, toasted cumin vinaigrette. The shallots add a subtle crunch and a hint of sharpness.
The salad would be fantastic for a backyard barbeque along side some lamb, but because of the perils of the red beets imparting their vivid color on everything they touch, it might not be a great candidate to make and bring someplace. Of course you could use just golden beets and then your problem is solved.
Serves 6 to 8