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Citrus Beets with Goat Cheese and Country Ham

March 7, 2009

26feb53beets1

The New York Times had me in mind when they ranked beets #1 in the “11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating.” For me, beets rank just behind brussels sprouts on the list of veggies never to cross my cutting board.

But I was on speaking terms with the rest of the nutritious list – swiss chard, sardines, tumeric – and thought maybe I gave beets a bum rap.

I first flirted with beets in a lunchtime salad, then plunged headlong into a whirlwind romance: beets and blue cheese, roasted beets, beet puree. I mixed them with citrus and thyme, creamy goat cheese and crisp country ham.

Then the Times dropped the bombshell: beets and goat cheese were getting divorced. Mark Bittman published a video manifesto against the pairing, exhorting cooks to “Give goats a break. Go goat free!”

Rumors ran wild: the beets were stubborn, the goats always nagged. The beets felt smothered, the goats started seeing other roots.

But the preferences of one food critic don’t amount to a hill of beets in this crazy, mixed up world. Beet-goat pairings still abound – in spite of Bittman! – because they’re creamy and crunchy and just plain good.

If you’ve never made beets, take a chance on this gorgeous salad… it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

26feb-citrus

Citrus Beets with Goat Cheese and Country Ham
Loosely adapted from Epicurious.com

Beets:
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons butter, melted
6 large fresh thyme sprigs
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
1 bay leaf
8 baby beets (preferably assorted colors), trimmed

Citrus vinaigrette:
Peel from 1 orange (orange part only), cut into thin 2-inch-long strips
Peel from 1 lemon (yellow part only), cut into thin 2-inch-long strips
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons peanut oil

Salad:
3 small sweet onions, sliced into rings
Olive oil
Coarse kosher salt
3 ounces very thinly sliced country ham
4 teaspoons minced plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
Cracked black pepper
1 5-ounce log soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Aged balsamic vinegar

For beets:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix first 6 ingredients baking dish. Add beets and toss to coat. If you’re roasting two colors of beats, roast in separate dishes so the colors don’t run. Cover with foil and roast until beets are tender, about 45 minutes. Cool; peel.

For citrus vinaigrette:
Boil water in a small saucepan. Add orange peel. Blanch 1 minute; drain. Repeat blanching procedure with lemon peel; reserve lemon peel for serving. Return orange peel to same pan and add orange juice, grapefruit juice, and honey. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until reduced to generous 1/3 cup, about 20 minutes. Whisk lemon juice and mustard in medium bowl; whisk in oil. Whisk in orange-grapefruit reduction. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper. Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

For salad:
Preheat broiler. Line small baking sheet with foil. Place onion slices with rings intact on sheet. Brush with oil; sprinkle with coarse salt. Broil onions until browned about 10 minutes. Turn and broil until browned, about 5 minutes longer.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange ham in single layer on prepared baking sheet. Roast until ham is crisp, 10 to 20 minutes, depending on thickness of ham. Cool and break ham into bite-size pieces.

Whisk 4 teaspoons minced parsley into vinaigrette. Mix in reserved lemon peel. Quarter beets. Toss with some of vinaigrette (if using assorted colors, toss in separate bowls). Sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper. Separate onion rings. Divide rings among plates in single layer. Arrange beets in and around onion rings. Sprinkle goat cheese over. Scatter ham and chopped parsley over. Drizzle with some of remaining vinaigrette and aged balsamic vinegar.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2009 11:21 pm

    Yum! i recently made a beet and goat cheese salad also. It’s one of my favorite ways to use beets. although mine is not nearly as georgeous as yours! http://katiebarlow.blogspot.com/2009/03/bring-on-color-part-1.html

  2. March 8, 2009 12:24 pm

    I’ve recently been introduced to beets too…and I love goat cheese with them! I love the idea of pairing grapefruit juice with both…

  3. Judy permalink
    March 10, 2009 3:47 pm

    Food porn shots! Love that juiced citrus shot!

  4. March 16, 2009 2:15 am

    Beets rule!!! I ate a shredded brussels sprouts salad this evening. You know where you will find a photo!

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