Alternate Dinner Plans: SALAD


Red and yellow beets, goat cheese foam, maple glazed walnuts, sunflower micro greens with orange vinaigrette, basil flowers.


Beet Salad is something I’d been playing around with for about a year before I’d even thought of doing this dinner. Our family loves beets and while we don’t have them on hand very often, beets normally don’t last long when we do.

Beets are awesome vegetables. They taste like candy. Beet salad is equally awesome so last year I dug up a simple recipe on the internet that was basically beets, walnuts with maple syrup, goats cheese and baby salad greens (or spinach) with a vinaigrette made with OJ concentrate. Then you took all this and mixed it up and voila: beet salad.

It was ok, but I found the orange vinaigrette was super sweet and the presentation rather dull; it was just a pile of salad after all.

When I prepared the four course for my birth mum in September 2015, I tried cutting back the OJ concentrate in an effort to make it less sweet and played around with the plating. It was pretty good even if it was very, very busy presentation wise.

Beet Salad Take OneFancy Beet Salad Take One: 09/2015

.. and the orange vinaigrette was still on the “too sweet” side.

When planning the dinner I figured I’d try the beet salad again but I wanted to really reign it in:

  1. Simplify the presentation; make it look way less busy
  2. Do something about the orange vinaigrette
  3. Incorporate micro greens rather than basic mixed greens
  4. Can I do something with the goats cheese other than just plop gobs of it on the plate/salad?

I’m going to go backwards here as that’s just the way things rolled.

Item number four, the goats cheese, was the first thing taken care of. As mentioned in the Amuse-Bouche post, I’d found this awesome recipe on Molecular Recipes site and the goats cheese foam was just screaming to be used in a beet salad.

Prepping the cheese...Prepping the goats cheese foam.

The micro greens were no problem. We have two a locally owned stores here in Ottawa: Produce Depot and Rainbow Foods. Produce Depot is awesome for fruits and vegetables year round. They’re not exactly selling goods from local farms but they are a locally owned business and the produce they sell puts the big box stores to shame. They also have a goodly selection of exotic fruits and veggies as well as a great fish and meats counter. To note: I found the asparagus shoots for the amuse-bouche course at Produce Depot, and the beets for this course were purchased there as well.

As for Rainbow Foods, well, it’s safe to sat that I love Rainbow Foods. If I’m ever looking for local, organic produce or dairy I can find it there and it was at RF I found sunflower sprouts which I used as the micro greens for the salad (and picked up a half pound of delicious, Ontario unsalted butter, and the Ontario feta for the amuse-bouche).

Next up was the vinaigrette. I searched around online and finally managed to mix up a couple recipes into one. I juiced oranges and mixed this with some balsamic vinegar and, the kicker, a little bit of dijon mustard, and cracked pepper. This last bit added a little bit of a spice to the whole dish the worked very well with the candied taste of the beets.

One of my guests has an aversion to pepper. It’s not an allergy, he simply doesn’t like the taste. So I made a separate, small batch for his plate sans pepper:

Sans Poivre

 

As well, I grated some orange zest into the sunflower sprouts for a little more orange tang:

Sunflower and orange zest

 

Finally came the plating. I sketched out a few, strange ideas one of which included a “tower” with a hollow centre filled with the cheese and so on and so forth. Yeah. Too much.

Back in May I was doing a big test including the soup, the dessert, and the beet salad and after a couple of minutes of deliberation it came to me. Beet squares were the answer.

Squares would allow me to centralize the presentation and layer the rest of the ingredients so that you would get a bit of each with each bite.

This is how I found myself cutting fresh cooked red and gold beets into five (or so) centimetre squares the night before the dinner.

Cutting Beet SquaresDon’t worry, the excess beets were not wasted.

The beet squares were cut and set aside, with some extras, in an air tight container for the next days fun.

Box of Beets
All in all, the salad was probably the easiest dish to plate as most of it was prepared either the night before (goats cheese foam, vinaigrette, beets), or the day of (walnuts, greens).

Maple Candied WalnutsPreparing the maple candied walnuts.

Plating was dead simple: two red squares, two gold squares laid out as a diamond. A puff of goats cheese foam in the centre. Sprinkle the candied walnuts on the foam. Set up the sunflower sprouts (which had been pre-tossed with the vinaigrette ), leaves up. To finish, grate on a little more orange zest and top with some basil flowers.

Beet Salad 01

 

The best compliment of this dish was: “Oh my god, I’m eating beets and they’re delicious! And I hate beets!”

This beet salad, no matter the plating, is a favourite of mine as it’s real easy to prep. Beets, once peeled and boiled, can last for quite a while when sealed and refrigerated and the goats cheese foam can last just as long. It takes no time to toss it all together and enjoy.

 

525

The drink pairing was Cuvée 525 Still Cider; St. Jospeph-du-Lac QC. I this was purchased at the Oka Cheese Factory (which, sadly, does not seem to have a website) during the families yearly trip to Park Oka in May. We go with a group of friends and they bought a bottle of this cider on the first trip to the cheese store. I tried some that night and was completely floored. I’m not a cider person to say the least. But then again when I hear the word “cider” I think “Strongbow” which, in turn, makes me cringe.

The 525 on the other hand is crisp, clean, and dry. The apple taste is not overpowering; it’ just there and really worked well with the beets and especially, I thought, the candied walnuts.

If you’re ever driving through Oka, Quebec I urge you to stop off at the Oka Cheese Store and pick up and couple of bottles of Cuvée 525. You won’t regret it.

For my non-wine friend, I made him a freshly blended Raspberry Daiquiri. And let me tell you, there was nothing fancy in this drink at all. I wanted it to be a fresh and simple as possible. The full list of ingredients was: raspberries, white rum, and a squeeze of lemon.