Monday, April 13, 2009

Roasted Beet Salad with Fennel, Black Olives, and Pecorino

Our spring/summer CSA subscription just started, and Hands of the Earth Farm grew some beautiful beets. The bunch we received included red, gold, and some pale, pinkish white ones. I wanted to use these in some interesting way, and I knew right where to look. I read A16: Food + Wine recently, and I remembered seeing this salad in the Anitpasti chapter. This book tells the story of the San Francisco restaurant of the same name and the southern Italian food and wine that inspired the menu and wine list. The first section in the book covers wine by region. This area of Italy is not as well-known for its wine as the northern regions, and less wine is exported from the south. I learned a lot about some unfamiliar varietals and some interesting wines to look for in stores and restaurants. In the food section of the book, there is a wine suggestion for each dish, and for this salad that was Asprinio di Aversa from Campania. Asprinio means “slightly sour,” and this wine is described as lean and crisp with a sour edge. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy one to locate. Another wine from Campania is Greco di Tufo which is also a lean white with some acidity, and this I was able to find.

The fresh, pretty beets were roasted until tender, allowed to cool, peeled, and chopped into wedges. Fennel was sliced, quickly blanched, rinsed, and drained. A thick vinaigrette was to be made from black olives. I used black Cerignolas which have a nice, buttery, olive flavor but are a little difficult to pit. The pitted olives were pulsed in a food processor with olive oil and red wine vinegar, and this was tossed with the prepared beets. The drained, sliced fennel was tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. The salad was plated by piling some fennel in the center and surrounding it with beets, and an aged sheep’s pecorino, oro antico, was shaved on top of it all. I didn’t even realize until I had plated the salads that there is no pepper in this dish. I had to stop and think about whether I had grabbed the peppermill at some point out of habit, and no, I did not, I actually followed the instructions correctly. Throughout the food portion of the book, Appleman mentions the simplicity of flavors found in southern Italian food. He mentions that traditionally when onion is used, garlic is not, and when chiles are used, black pepper isn't. He doesn’t always use black pepper whether chiles are present or not. In general, ingredients are left in simple combinations to prevent one flavor from sullying or masking another.

Here, the focus of the salad was the sweetness of the vegetables accented by the briny olives and salty cheese. A small amount of salt was used in dressing the fennel, but pepper was not used at any point. Each item on the plate fulfilled exactly what it should have. The fennel was perfect with lemon, and the olives met well with the earthy sweetness of the beets. The sharp yet rich bite of the cheese brought all the flavors together, and the crisp, light, Greco di Tufo with a hint of grapefruit was just what was meant to go with it since I don’t know what I was missing with the Asprinio di Aversa.


23 comments:

  1. I love A16, and I love beets, something tells me I will love your salad. We've been getting some incredible beets from our CSA so I cannot wait to try.

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  2. Such vibrant colors in the salad :D
    I just love it.

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  3. I am a beet freak. This dish looks like it is from a restaurant.
    I am not familiar with A16, but will check it out.
    Another beautiful dish Lisa.

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  4. My sister has a friend who works at A:16 and I have been telling her to get me this book! I have never cooked beets, but a friend sent me a roasted beet recipe so I may try them soon.

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  5. How pretty and creative! I am jealous of your CSA membership!

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  6. god i love beets. they're like, the best thing in the world. so sweet and flavorful and delicious! i would NEVER have thought to put them with olives but now i have to try it!

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  7. Gorgeous and delicious salad. Beet is my favorite root vegetable.
    Cheers,
    elra

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  8. I love roasted beets, in fact, I have some in the fridge right now! This looks like a great salad.

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  9. This is a fabulous combo - one of my favorites. Those beets are gorgeous!

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  10. Gorgeous - I love roasted beets and know I would enjoy your lovely salad!

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  11. I also love beets and think they would taste so well with those olives and cheese. A16 needs to hire you as their co-chef!

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  12. MMMMMM....Beets! I love this salad! Looks really great, your picture!

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  13. What a gorgeous salad! The combination of beets and olives sounds so excellent!

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  14. This looks so fancy, but not hard to make :)

    I should go buy some beets this weekend!

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  15. I am so jealous! I'd love to do a CSA this summer but I am moving back to NY and won't be able to sign up for one! Next year! Your salad looks GORGEOUS. So perfect and fresh!

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  16. it's like an edible rainbow! i love it, lisa. :)

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  17. What a beautiful picture, looks so good.

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  18. Oh, beet season. It's still a way off for us in the Midwest, but I'll just live vicariously through you until then. I've been wanting to get a look at A16 -- haven't had the chance yet, but this salad bodes well for it. The multi-colored beets make it visually stunning!

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  19. What a gorgeous dish! I really need to get myself signed up for a CSA.

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  20. I have beets on the brain now! Your first photo is absolutely incredible; between your preparation and the one by Greg at SippitySup.com, I must now find golden beets and experience the wondrousness myself!

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  21. Simple salad that appears to pack quite a lot of flavor from the few ingredients.

    Stunning picture here Lisa!

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  22. This looks great, and what a close shot...wish I could pick it off the screen and try it!

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  23. This is so frustrating! I eat pretty much anything except for cooked beets. They look so beautiful and appetizing but I just don't have a taste for them. It's a shame. I am sure many others will be able to enjoy this beautiful dish.

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