We are all up for meatless meals, centered on hearty and delicious veggies. Thankfully, we have Casey to give us fresh takes on some old friends. Sweet roasted beets, acidic oranges, and a creamy, nutty pistachio dressing team up for this satisfying salad. -Amy
I work a job where occasionally I get home late. More often than not, this late hour pairs with physical exhaustion, general worn-outness and hunger. Hunger, that is, for something great and nourishing regardless of the late hour.
Where I live in California, we are amidst the heyday of spring bounty. This time of year is thrilling because it cues the beginning of bounty to come throughout the next few months when gardens and farms are virtually exploding with gorgeous produce. Having a refrigerator stocked with excellent fruits and veggies makes cooking in my night kitchen very much something to look forward to.
Many a restaurant offers a beet salad these days. Typically, it’s comprised of boiled, soft beets, perhaps avocado, some vinaigrette and seasonal greens and it’s surely satisfactory, depending on the venue. But as one of my chef instructors once said, “I never want my food to be ‘fine’”. Thus, this salad.
At a time of year when the natural world is aglow with color and dynamic growth, dishes should mimic this explosive happiness. Here, the beets are not boiled, but rather roasted to concentrate their dynamic earthiness. A creamy pistachio puree offers substance to an otherwise expected basic balsamic vinaigrette. Segments of Cara Cara oranges scream “oh my! Summer is almost here, citrus has arrived!” and arugula, especially the wild foraged variety, is biting and bitter. Both are substantive and excellent salad companions.
And the best part of this dish is the textural possibilities. The entire time you’re eating it, you’re trying to assemble the perfect combination of textures to result in the ideal bite. First, you think it might be some pistachio cream-soaked greens smeared across a bite of bread. Dynamite. Or the salty and crisp beet green chip with some sweet orange and pistachio crunch? But then, a bit of beet, the cream, a bit of Cara Cara to complement the earthy beet, biting arugula greens… bliss. Mixing and mingling the various ingredients is not only an intriguing activity, but fun for your palate as well. Whether late at night, for a spring lunch, or as a picnic bring-along, I’m pretty confident this salad will please.
New Beginning Beet Salad
- 2 large to medium beets, with greens
- 1 Cara Cara orange
- 1/2 cup raw, unsalted pistachios
- 2 to 3 cups arugula
- 2-3 tablespoons milk of choice
- 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash the beets and cut them radially into wedges. You may remove the skin if you wish, but I find that I enjoy the earthiness their flavor lends. Toss the wedges with some olive oil, salt and pepper and arrange them on a baking sheet. Place in the oven.
- Segment your orange! To begin, cut off the top and bottom of the orange, revealing the circle of flesh within the peel. Working around the circumference of the orange, slice away the peel. Once rid of the peel, pick up the orange and cut out the segments of flesh between the fibrous dividing veins. Do this over a bowl, to catch the falling segments as well as any residual juice!
- To make the pistachio cream, place the pistachios in a food processor (if you don’t have a food processor, I’ve found that a spice grinder works). Pulse the nuts until they become a very fine powder. Season with a bit of salt and pepper, then add in the milk, pulsing again until you have a smooth consistency.
- When the beet segments are 80% cooked, add the greens to the pan, laying them flat in a single layer to crisp up like a chip.
- Drain any of the residual juice from the orange segments, and mix this with the vinegar, honey and a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Dress the arugula lightly with this mixture, and place in serving bowls. Arrange the orange segments atop nicely, nestled with the beet segments and beet chips. Finish each dish with a generous drizzle of the pistachio cream, and enjoy the colors of delicious!
Photos taken and styled by Casey.
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