No other vegetable can match the beet’s subtle sweetness and ruby intensity – and it contains powerful cancer-fighting nutrients. Here’s a beautiful salad with a lovely balance of flavors and textures. The soft, buttery beets are a delicious foil for tangy goat cheese and crunchy pine nuts. This works well as a main course for a luncheon or as a first course for an elegant dinner party. Beets do take some time to cook, but it’s well worth the effort. Just watch out for stained hands! Zov always wears plastic disposable gloves whenever she touches cooked beets.

Beet Salad with Watercress, Spinach and Fennel

Ingredients

Sherry-Orange Vinaigrette

1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup Sherry wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

Salad

3 medium red beets, scrubbed
3 medium yellow beets, scrubbed
3 7-ounce bunches hydroponically-grown watercress, stems trimmed (see Pantry and Produce)
1 6-ounce bag fresh baby spinach
2 fennel bulbs, sliced paper-thin, divided
7 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 pint red teardrop tomatoes, cut in half

Preparation

MAKE THE VINAIGRETTE: Whisk the orange juice, vinegar, honey, shallots, mustard, salt and pepper in a large bowl to blend. Gradually add the olive oil, whisking until emulsified. Set aside.

PREPARE THE SALAD: Place the red beets in 1 saucepan and the yellow beets in another saucepan. Add enough water to both saucepans to cover the beets by 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat medium. Simmer until the beets are easily pierced with a knife, about 25 minutes. Trim the ends and slip the skins off the beets under running water. Keep the red beets separate from the yellow beets so that they do not discolor. Cut each beet into 12 wedges. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Do-Ahead Tip: The vinaigrette and beets can be prepared in advance. Store the vinaigrette in a tightly-sealed jar and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Let the vinaigrette stand at room temperature until the oil liquefies, about 20 minutes, then shake the vinaigrette vigorously to blend before using. Store the beets in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Just before serving, toss the watercress, spinach and all but 1/2 cup of the fennel slices in a large bowl with enough vinaigrette to coat. Mound the watercress mixture in the center of 6 large pasta bowls or onto six large plates.

Toss the yellow beets and red beets in separate bowls with enough vinaigrette to coat. Arrange the beets decoratively atop the salads. Coarsely crumble the goat cheese over the salads. Sprinkle the pine nuts and tomatoes atop the salads. Garnish with the remaining fennel slices and serve immediately.

Zov’s kitchen note: This is great vinaigrette to have on hand, as it complements almost any salad with citrus in it. Make sure to slice the fennel paper-thin, and keep the slices in water so they stay crisp. Serve the beets at room temperature so they soak up as much dressing as possible. Feta cheese can be substituted for goat cheese.

MAKES 4 MAIN COURSE SERVINGS or 6 SIDE DISH SERVINGS

*Recipe courtesy of Chef/Restaurateur Zov Karamardian.*

*Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*