Many food professionals would have you, the home cook, believe that the culinary tricks they perform and the dishes they create in the kitchen are difficult. And it is true that some...
I have a soft spot for things that are hard to love. Spreadsheets, mom shoes, stubborn people. In fact, I tend to gravitate towards them, probably because I feel like it's worth it in the end. As if the satisfaction resulting from something is in direct proportion to how difficult it is to love.
Maybe that's why I like beets so much. They are hard and unyielding with grubby thick skins, and they taste distinctly of dirt. They need a good scrubbing and a long sojourn in the oven, after which they must be divested of their jackets. I've tried various ways of keeping my hands clean, but now I just own it and try to enjoy the bright pink shade of my skin after peeling beets.
Beets also seem to evoke strong emotions. Usually, a beet will summon utter disgust or undying passion and nothing in between. I guess I just wound up on the side of undying passion.
This recipe is inspired by a dish I ate at a restaurant recently. In it, beets are paired with another seasonal delight--blood oranges. If you can't find blood oranges, Cara Cara oranges would also be lovely. If you can find golden beets, they make a lovely contrast to the red beets, but using all red beets is perfectly fine. You can also use rutabaga, as it turns a lovely golden color when roasted. What really sets this salad off is the addition of crispy, browned bread crumbs and a good drizzle of olive oil. I can't promise it will woo the beet haters, but that just means more for the rest of us.
Note: If you would prefer to boil the beets, cover them with water and bring to a boil until tender, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the tops (and save for another use) from:
Two bunches red and/or golden beets (about 8 to 10 medium-sized beets; roughly 2 1/2 pounds)
Toss the beets in a little oil in a baking dish and cover the whole dish with foil. Bake until tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 to 2 hours depending on the size of the beets.
While the beets roast, heat in a small skillet over medium heat:
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 1/2 teaspoon fresh
Black pepper as desired
Stir the crumbs frequently until golden brown. Remove from the heat. Add:
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Cut away the peel and pith from:
2 blood oranges
Cut the oranges into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices and set aside.
When the beets are tender, allow them to cool enough to handle, and gently rub off the skins. You can use a paper towel to help rub them off or wear kitchen gloves. Cut the beets in half or quarters lengthwise.
Arrange the beets on a serving platter. Give them a good drizzle of olive oil and a healthy sprinkling of kosher salt, then top with the orange slices. Serve the bread crumbs on the side.