Hello? Anyone there? The bar is (mercifully) over, I have moved out of Chicago, and I am back! For my first post back, I wanted to share with you a recipe that was a constant in my kitchen for a decent portion of the last two months.
There are some things that we eat just because they're good for us. There are things that we eat in spite of the fact that they're, um, not as good for us. Then there are things that fall graciously into both categories, allowing us to eat what we truly enjoy, while reducing the guilt factor by just so happening to be something good for you. For me, beets are one of those generous foods - they allow me to enjoy what I'm eating knowing that I'm doing both my palette and my body a great favor. Not-so-recently there was a post on the NY Times Health Blog of the 11 healthiest foods out there that they presumptuously concluded you and I are not eating, and beets were number one. However, the article noted that cooking them tempts out all the antioxidants and nutrients that make them oh-so-good for you.
I don't know about all of you, but not until recently did I even think of eating a beet uncooked. I love beets, more perhaps than most normal people do, but I had always eaten them cooked. It seemed to be such a rough, hulking root that trying to bite into it without cooking would greatly reduce the enjoyment gained from eating it. However, grating the beets provides an excellent solution to this problem. Fine shreds of beets have a wonderfully inviting crunch and pleasant texture, and just taste that much better knowing how much better it is for you.
The following recipe is not as much of a recipe as it is a jumble of delicious things that become only more delicious when thrown haphazardly together and eaten straight out of the mixing bowl, unless - I guess - you wish to share. I found it in Mark Bittman's list of 101 picnic ideas that was published in the Times dining section earlier this summer. Since everything could be made in under 20 minutes it seemed like the natural place for me to turn while studying for the bar. I unfortunately did not have a chance to get to any other ideas on the list*, but this salad is colorful, refreshing, fresh and healthy - everything a summer salad should be.
I should warn, however, that if you choose to eat this as your main course, there is a slight possibility it will make you pee magenta. This happened to me, and it scared the shit out of me, because, you know - who pees magenta? Really? Once I made the beet-magenta pee connection, I did some internet research and discovered that eating beets causes this same reaction in 14% of the population, and is purportedly a sign of an iron-deficient diet. I'm sticking with the fact that only 14% of the population is eating enough beets to have this reaction. I, for one, am proud to call myself a magenta-peeing beet-eater. I am curious as to whether this actually happens to other people, so if you try this salad leave a comment letting me know!
* Note: this salad is, in fact, number ONE on the list of 101 picnic ideas, so some might say that I didn't get anywhere on the list. Some.
Raw Beet Salad with Pistachios and Goat Cheese
These measurements are all approximate. I just added until i liked the way it tasted, which is easy to do when dealing with a salad. I've made this with both soft goat cheese and semi-soft, and both work equally well. I like to add a bit more cheese atop the bowl just so that there is something in there that is not dyed magenta.
This took me just about 20 minutes to make, but will take no more than 5 minutes if made with a food processor. If you're grating by hand, do yourself a favor and wear dark clothes; that garnet-toned juice, gorgeous as it may be, is not as gorgeous when forever stained on your favorite t-shirt.
2-3 medium-sized beets, peeled
Zest of one-half of an orange
Juice of one-half to one orange (depending on your taste and the size of your beets)
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1-2 ounces of goat cheese
1/4-1/2 cup of pistachios, roughly chopped
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Grate beets either with a box grater or in the food processor, being sure to capture all the juice. Add the orange zest, orange juice and olive oil, adjusting to taste.
Add the chopped pistachios and parsley and mix to combine. Crumble the goat cheese over the beets and gently mix to distribute. Sprinkle with some sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste, dig in, and enjoy.