The Beetroot – bold and beautiful

In the summertime I’m always looking for new ways to jazz up salads. They’re a staple of summer eating and rightly so. It’s true that we eat not only with our palate but also our eyes and nose. How food looks and smells is an important part of the eating experience.

I feel this is even more true with salads simply because the colours available to bring one together are some of the most vibrant in the food world. My goal as a cook is always to have people eating with their eyes first. And a few bits of limp lettuce and under-ripened tomato is never going to bring anyone running to the table with anticipation.

Making a salad is an opportunity to be bold and creative so that the next time you get asked what has to be one of life’s most commonly asked questions – what’s for dinner? – there are no groans of disappointment when you answer with: a salad.

One of my favourite salads is watermelon and feta with black olives. A fabulous combination that looks absolutely stunning. Feta is often a delicious addition to salads and I’d always wanted to try it paired with beetroot. I don’t tend to cook beetroot that often because my husband doesn’t like it. But I love it and occasionally if I’m craving for something I’ll just go ahead and make it – whether my husband likes it or not. He tends to resort to toasted cheese when I’m having one of these moments.

I’m happy to report that feta and beetroot is a match made in heaven – not that I was ever in any doubt. This salad has everything going for it. Not only is it beautiful to look at (purple – what a colour!) and tastes delicious but gets a big tick for its nutritional value. The beetroot is low in fat while at the same time packed with vitamins and minerals and powerful antioxidants. Then there is the spinach and walnuts. In short you’re looking at three health-food heroes in the one dish. Not bad going. And after all that Christmas over-indulgence this is a good time of the year to get back to some clean and healthy eating.

our-growing-edge-badgeI’ll also be linking this post to Our Growing Edge, a monthly blogging event where food bloggers can share new things they’re trying in the kitchen. It’s a great way for foodies to connect with each other. This month’s theme is Healthy Starts and is hosted by Terri from Food Meanderings.

Now back to the beetroot. How to cook it? I like to bake it in the oven because it helps to lock in as much of that wonderfully earthy flavour as possible and will fill your kitchen with a delicious aroma. The other plus to baking it is that the beetroot needs no intervention – you can get on with other things while it happily cooks away.

Beetroot & Feta Salad

Serves 2-3

2 medium-sized beetroot

75g baby spinach leaves

1 small red onion, finely sliced

75g feta cheese

50g walnuts

Small handful mint leaves

Dressing

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 scant teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Wrap the whole beetroot in foil, place in a shallow oven dish and bake for 1-1½ hours. I would start checking after an hour. Ovens vary as does the size of beetroots. Test if they’re done by pushing a skewer or sharp knife through the centre of the beetroot. If it goes through easily with no resistance then they’re tender and cooked.

Partly unwrap the foil and let them cool down.

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Once cool to the touch you can peel the beetroot. I would strongly suggest you put on some food prep gloves for this job to prevent staining your fingers. Give the beetroots a quick rinse and dry with a paper towel. Now simply slice them into cubes for the salad.

And that’s the cooking part done. The rest is merely an assembly job. Arrange the spinach leaves on your serving plate and add the remainder of the ingredients, layering as you go. Scatter the beetroot cubes over the spinach, followed by the red onion slices and walnuts. Crumble over the feta and then finally tear some mint leaves and scatter over the top. The mint is incredibly delicious with this combination of flavours.

Look at the colours!

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For the dressing, whisk the vinegar and mustard together then add the orange juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting screw top lid. Give it a good shake and then drizzle over the salad.

Now just eat. Personally I can never seem to have a salad without a trusty slice of crusty bread at my side – smeared with unsalted butter of course. But entirely optional. This salad does just fine on its own.

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8 Comments

  1. Pingback: Healthy Starts Round up – Our Growing Edge | FOODMEANDERINGS.COM

  2. Pingback: Healthy Starts Round up - Our Growing Edge - Food Meanderings

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