I like to break this salad out in the dead of winter, when it provides a vibrant pop of color to an otherwise drab season. Not only is it beautiful, it’s also fresh and light, which helps balance out some of the heavy, hearty dishes we tend to crave when temperatures drop.
One of the questions I get asked most frequently is how I roast beets. Roasting beets is easy, but there are a few things that can make them better. For starters, pay attention when they’re in the oven and add more water to the bottom of the roasting pan if the pan begins to dry out. Beets are done when they feel slightly and evenly resistant all the way through. The outer edge of the vegetable will cook faster, so make sure you test all the way through to the center. If they feel light or fluffy and offer no resistance, they’re probably overcooked. Begin checking beets after about 40 minutes in the oven, using the pointy end of a metal or a wooden skewer. Beets of different sizes cook at different rates, so start checking the small ones first. Beets of different colors can cook at different rates, too, so check them all if you’re roasting a variety. Finally, I prefer to buy beets with their tops on for the same reason I prefer to buy carrots with their tops: even if I’m not using them, greens guarantee freshness.
To make this salad more substantial, add a second citrus, like blood orange, trimmed of the rind and sliced into wheels. This dish is great for showing off winter’s gorgeous citrus and beet colors.
- Yield: 6 Servings
- 3 golf-ball- to tennis-ball-size beets in assorted colors (red, yellow,
- candy-stripe) with tops intact
- 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
- 3 (½-inch-wide) strips orange peel
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 4 fresh or 8 dried bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- ¼ cup plus 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1½ tablespoons salt
- 1½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 red grapefruits, such as Rio Red or Star Ruby
- 2 heads baby frisée
- 1 cup Mint Crème Fraîche
- 16 to 20 mint leaves, for garnish
- Flaky finishing salt
- MAKE THE BEETS Preheat the oven to 400°F. Scrub the beets well with a brush and remove the greens. (If the greens look healthy—they are similar in texture and flavor to Swiss chard—wash them well and save for another use.)
- In a small rectangular roasting pan or a loaf pan, toss together the garlic, orange peel, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Rub the beets all over with ¼ cup of the oil and sprinkle with the salt. Add the beets to the pan and roll the beets around in the garlic-citrus mixture, seasoning them evenly. Fill the pan ½ inch with water.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and roast until the beets are slightly and evenly resistant throughout, 40 to 60 minutes. Beets of different colors can cook at different rates, so be sure to test all types you’re roasting.
- Uncover the pan and let the beets cool until they can be comfortably handled, 15 to 20 minutes. While the beets are still warm, carefully peel them: hold a beet in one hand and, with your other hand, gently rub and peel off the skin with a paper towel. Wear plastic gloves if you don’t want your hands stained.
- Cut a thin slice off the top and bottom of the red beet, then slice it into ¼-inch-thick disks. Cut the other 2 beets into wedges about ¾ inch wide. Keep the cut beets separated by color, placing them in small bowls or plastic containers. Add ½ teaspoon of the vinegar and 1 teaspoon of the remaining oil to each container and toss to coat the beets evenly. Allow the beets to marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to overnight, covered, in the refrigerator. If marinating overnight, remove the beets from the refrigerator at least 1½ hours before serving so they come to room temperature and the oil isn’t congealed.
- MAKE THE VINAIGRETTE In a small container or jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the shallot, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper and shake vigorously. Set the vinaigrette aside.
- MAKE THE SALAD Supreme the grapefruits. Place the citrus segments in a strainer set over a small bowl and set aside.
- Strip the mature outer leaves off the frisée until you reach the creamy, pale green and white center leaves. Trim off the frizzy tips so they won’t poke the mouths of your guests. Wash thoroughly and dry well with a salad spinner and set in a mixing bowl in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- To serve, dress the frisée with half of the vinaigrette and taste. Add more vinaigrette if necessary. On each of four small plates, pour a full spoonful of the crème fraîche, then use the back of the spoon to swoop it into a gentle curve in a single stroke. Arrange the beets and grapefruit on top of the crème fraîche, and tuck the frisée in neat tufts. Garnish each plate with 4 or 5 mint leaves and a sprinkle of flaky finishing salt. Serve immediately.