BEET SALAD WITH SHERRY VINAIGRETTE
by Romney Steele
The beet salad was introduced to Nepenthe's menu at the start of the new millennium, bringing field greens to the restaurant and addressing the need for a robust salad as a main course. The candied pecans add a hint of sweetness to the whole, but you can simply toast them, if preferred. You can either roast the beets (see Note below) or boil them.
• 1 small shallot, finely chopped
• 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 6 tablespoons olive oil or safflower oil
• 1 tablespoon water
• 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 8 to 12 baby golden beets (2 bunches small or 1 bunch large), boiled or roasted, and peeled
• 8 cups field greens or arugula, rinsed and crisped
• 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
• 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
• 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
• 1/2 cup candied pecans (see Note) or toasted pecans
To make the vinaigrette, combine the shallot, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil and water. Whisk in the thyme, salt, and pepper.
For the salad, halve or quarter the beets, depending on size. Combine the beets, greens, onion, and tomatoes in a large bowl. Toss with the vinaigrette and season lightly with a little salt if needed. Divide among 4 plates. Sprinkle the goat cheese and pecans over the tops and serve.
NOTE: To roast beets, throw them scrubbed but unpeeled into a baking pan and drizzle with a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and add a splash of water and sherry vinegar. Cover tightly and roast at 400°F until fork tender, about 30 minutes for small ones. Peel the beets when still warm by rubbing between two towels.
To candy pecans, toss nuts in a sugar syrup (equal parts water and sugar/honey); add a pinch of salt and spread them onto a lightly buttered parchment-covered pan. Bake at 300°F for about 25 minutes, until nicely toasted and caramelized.