Monday, January 02, 2006

Underrated vegetables

I think that beets are underrated. Most people have a visceral negative reaction to beets, but enjoy them if they give them a chance.

Case in point. I took the following beet salad recipe to a New Year's Eve party this year. It made a lovely presentation, bright red and festive in a green bowl. As I sat down, the guest next to me said, "Well, that looks gorgeous, but I don't know what they could have been thinking bringing beets to the party! Who is going to want to eat that?" I laughed, and informed her that the beet salad was my contribution to the potluck. Embarassed, my dinner partner determined to try my dish. "Wow, that's actually good," she said. Another convert.

Beet Salad with Carmelized Onions and Feta

3-4 beets
2 onions
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Cut the leafy end off of the beets, but do not peel them. Place the beets on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Wrap the foil up tightly around the beets. Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the onions thinly. Heat a heavy large skillet on medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and cook the onions for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft and beginning to brown. Place the onions in a large bowl.

Open the tinfoil packets and let the beets cool for a few minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, peel the beets under cool water; the outer skin will pull off easily. Chop the beets into bite-sized pieces.

In a small bowl, mix the mustard, vinegar, and some salt to taste. Add the remainder of the olive oil, whisking vigerously, to emulsify. Add pepper to taste.

Pour the dressing over the onions and toss. Add the beets and toss again. Crumble the feta cheese over all and toss a third time. Just before serving, top with the chopped walnuts.