In the spirit of trying new things and getting out of the ol' recipe rut, I bring you golden beets.
Wait, BEETS? Seriously?
I have a sort of embarrassing confession to make relating to beets: I have never tried them. Not even once. Beets have just never been very far up on my "must-try-before-I-die" list. All of experiences with beets has been limited to the mushy, limp variety which comes in a can, and I'm sorry but I am NOT about to put flaccid purple mystery-vegetable into my mouth. I can think of approximately 500 other things on my "must-try" list I would like to have before canned beets.
Leave it to Alice Waters, she of Chez Panisse fame, the godmother of Californian cuisine and the slow-food movement, to change my mind. It seems that President Obama does not care for beets either. But Alice, well, she would like to change that. She said, and I quote, "I would like to serve him some golden beets sometime that were roasted in the oven, that were not overcooked, that were dressed with a lovely little vinaigrette, maybe even diced in a salad. Squeeze 'em with a little lime. It's fantastically nutritious."
Um, that sounds kind of good. Maybe I have written off a vegetable as bland and mushy when it is, in fact, delicious and flavorful in its fresh, uncanned, unprocessed state?
We picked these beauties up at the farmer's market last Friday. They are so PRETTY! But did they taste good? Well, when we got home, we trolled the internet to figure out how to prepare them (apparently, they taste best roasted). I was going to make a salad out of Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food, but it seems I left 1/2 my order at the farmer's market and didn't have enough. So I made this recipe up. And you know what? It was REALLY good. We were both surprised by how much we like beets. They have an earthy flavor that paired really well with asparagus, spinach, feta cheese, and a tangy cumin-yogurt sauce. I totally recommend you try them. You know, just in case you have never tried beets either and want to give them a chance.
Roasted Golden beet and Asparagus Salad with Baby Spinach, Feta, and Cumin-Yogurt Dressing
This is great "spring" food - all of these vegetables should be (theoretically) available at your farmer's market. I used rice noodles (making the dish gluten free), but if you want to use regular noodles I'm sure it will taste great too.
5 small - medium sized golden beets
1 large bunch asparagus
2 handfuls of baby spinach (about 1/2 a pound, or 1/2 a bag pre-packed)
1 lb rice pasta in a small shape (not spaghetti)
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup Greek or European style whole milk yogurt, plain
2 tbs white balsamic vinegar or other tasty vinegar
1 tbs cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 glug olive oil
FIRST - preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bring water to boil in a large pot, and cook your noodles. If you are making rice noodles, be sure to rinse thoroughly, they are hella starchy.
thoroughly scrub the beets, and cut off the green tops (supposedly these are edible too, but the top of my beets didn't look too pretty, and I was being daring enough for one day). Place cut side down on a baking sheet and roast about 45 minutes, until beets can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and let cool.
Cut the ends off the asparagus and cut into 1" sections. Toss asparagus with olive oil and salt and pepper on a large rimmed baking tray. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes until tender and bright green. Remove from oven and let cool.
Slip the skins off of the beets. They should tear away easily.
Slice into thin wedges.
In a small bowl, mix together yogurt, vinegar, cumin, and cayenne pepper. In a larger bowl, combine this dressing with noodles, beets, asparagus, fresh spinach, feta cheese, and dressing. Toss liberally to coat.