September 1, 2006
Beets and Tomatoes (with spinach, goat cheese, and tarragon walnuts)

This is a fairly unattractive photo of a very tasty dinner. I proclaimed the wonders of heiroom tomatoes just yesterday. In this dish, I combine an heirloom tomato salad with a mix of red and gold organic beets and serve the two separate salads on a bed of spinach leaves. Goat cheese and toasted tarragon walnuts top the whole. There were no measurements taken, so consider this a methodology and a suggestion for creativity rather than a recipe.

The idea behind this dish is that the tartness of the tomatoes contrasts with the sweetness of the roasted beets. I keep these two salads separate on the plate so their flavors remain distinct.

For the beet salad, I peeled, diced, and roasted two big golden orange beets and in a separate tray, I peeled, diced and roasted one deep red beet. I roast them separately so the juices don't meld and the colors stay separate as much as possible. Often, recipes will tell you to roast your beets without peeling, and then just rub the skin off. That works great, but it's a mess and the beets take longer to roast. By dicing them ahead of time, we can cut the roasting time way down and you can get dinner on the table sooner. You don't have to be delicate with the peeling, just use a big knife and cut away the sides. Beets are cheap, and time is scarce. Save the waste for a soup or for your compost pile (or wormery, ifl ike Meg you've delved into vermiculture).

Toss the diced beets with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt before roasting them. The salt will help pull out the moisture, concentrating the flavor. Once the roasted beets are tender (after about 20-30 minutes at 375F), pull them out, get them off the baking tray, and put them in the refrigerator to cool for twenty minutes or so while you prepare the tomato salad.

I found a few heirloom tomatoes in the big batch I bought from our organic store that had good flavor, but that weren't a convenient shape or size. The crenelations were in inconvenient places, some were too small to cut good slices, some were too big for a manageable slice. The answer was to dice the tomatoes and mix them together.

I found a few green and a few red tomatoes and cut them up into a small 1/4"-1/2" dice. I mixed these together and hit them with a drizzle of balsamic and a splash of olive oil. For about a cup and a half of diced tomato, I'd guess I used a teaspoon of oil and about half that much balsamic. These are heirlooms, remember, and they don't require a lot of help in the flavor department. Set them aside and work on the walnuts

Melt a tablespoon and a half of butter in a skillet. Take about a cup of walnut halves and sautee them in the melted butter, tossing to coat. Add a pinch of salt and a scant tablespoon of dried tarragon. Toss or stir to combine and continue to sautee until the walnuts smell delicious and are golden brown. Be careful, they can burn very quickly.

Get your beets out, and combine the red and gold beets together (they should be cooled by now) in a big bowl. add a teaspoon of balsamic and two teaspoons of olive oil and toss lightly. Salt and pepper to taste.

Finally, take two cups of fresh baby spinach and toss it with two tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Place half the spinach in the center of a plate. On one side of the plate, dish up the beets. On the other side, form a mound of the tomato salad. Sprinkle half the walnuts and crumble about one oz. soft fresh goat cheese over the entire plate. Repeat with a second plate and serve as a dinner salad. If you'd prefer this be a side or appetizer and not the main course, split the mixes into four portions instead of two.

You'll notice I dress each component separately. You could certainly make a dressing of the balsamic and olive oil ahead of time, perhaps adding shallots or other aromatics, and then dressing the whole. When I do that, I find I overdress the salads and the flavors don't come through as well as if I dress each component salad individually.

I'll warn you that you may become addicted to the tarragon walnuts. I'll be trying other dried herbs with them, because this was delicious (and I'm sure the butter played absolutely no part in that...)

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at September 1, 2006 7:45 AM Print-friendly version

It sounds fabulous - don't think I've ever seen the idea of mixing tarragon and walnuts. I might have to pick me up some nuts at the market tomorrow!

Posted by Meg in Paris on September 1, 2006 at 5:30 PM

Nice spread. As a boy in the South Carolina hills, I loved "tamater (Tomatoe) samidges (Sandwiches) and I still do ! :)

Posted by Paul on September 2, 2006 at 5:29 AM

Nice spread. As a boy in the South Carolina hills, I loved "tamater (Tomatoe) samidges (Sandwiches) and I still do ! :)

Posted by Paul on September 2, 2006 at 5:30 AM

Nice spread. As a boy in the South Carolina hills, I loved "tamater (Tomatoe) samidges (Sandwiches) and I still do ! :)

Posted by Paul on September 2, 2006 at 5:30 AM

"A suggestion for creativity" is a good way to describe how many of us cook, I suspect.

Thanks for the tips on beets. I just discovered golden beets a few weeks ago at my local farm market. Fellow bloggers have been terrific in helping me find a use for them.

Thanks so much!

Posted by Mimi on September 2, 2006 at 9:38 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please be sure you read and agree with our ADVERTISING POLICY before posting.