Summer is for salads, right? I've never been a huge salad fan, up until now, but I'm realising that's because I've clearly not been introduced to the right salads. ;-) (I do still have a clear saturation point; after salad for lunch for four days running plus some for dinner both last night and tonight I think I'm done for a day or two...)
I discovered this recipe, courtesy of Annabel Langbein, when my sister and I were scouting potential Christmas recipes back in, uh, September last year (I am that obsessive, yes). It looked pretty good and pretty straightforward. Better yet, the only part that really requires any time/effort can be done ahead - extra good for Christmas, or indeed any time you're pushed for time.
This evening we had friends over for dinner and I thought this would make a good side dish. This makes the third time I've made it, so I've played with it a bit. The original recipe calls for shelled broad beans or edamame beans, which are nice and you're welcome to add if you feel so inclined, but we don't really eat them and the salad doesn't suffer without them. Likewise, feta is optional - and as it happened the main we had this with tonight contained feta so I left it off today. I like having options, though - it makes it feel like you're making something different the next time around. ;-)
The most intensive part of the recipe - and it's not very intensive - is roasting the beetroot. Peel and slice the beetroot, and then coat them in a combination of balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and olive oil. And then chuck them in the oven for about 50 minutes. Not too tricky. ;-) And the result is seriously good. Seriously. I never knew beetroot could be this amazing. The magic a little sugar can do... ;-)
Annabel's recipe calls for the walnuts to be toasted, too, so although the previous two times I've made this I haven't bothered today I followed the instructions. Despite checking them after 10 minutes instead of the recommended 15 they weren't looking so flash - see above right. Cue an urgent phone call to Mr Cake to buy some more on the way home! So I still haven't made this with toasted nuts - but it's great the way it is so I reckon I'll keep making it this way. You've got to trade off the effort (and risk of effort going astray!) against the benefits; in this case I don't think it's worth it.
And then we're ready to assemble - either in the more traditional bowl, or laid out on a platter, which is what I went for tonight (partly to disguise my slightly disproportionate leaf:beetroot ratio (not enough leaf!) but also because I think it looks a bit posher and if it doesn't take any more effort but impresses people a little bit more it has to be all good, right? You can toss it, but I prefer to layer everything - if I was using feta I'd add it last - it looks great crumbled against the dark beetroot.
Do you have salad fads like me? Or do you stick to old favourites?
Roast Balsamic Beetroot Salad (adapted from Annabel Langbein)
600g approx (4-6 small) beetroot
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt & pepper, to season
4 handfuls of rocket or other salad leaves
100g feta (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180 C. Peel the beetroot and slice each into about 6-8 wedges, then lay on a roasting tray. Mix together the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and olive oil and use to coat the beetroot slices. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until slightly shrivelled. Allow to cool.
Layer the salad leaves, cooled beetroot and walnuts in a bowl or on a platter. If using, crumble the feta over the top. Serves 4-6 as a side dish.