If there has been one theme in my cooking this CSA season, it has been beets and, specifically, roasted beets. I’d be lying if I said there was “something” about roasted beets that is magically comforting — no, there is something very specific about roasted beets I love, how their flavour is transformed, how the roasting deepens their sweetness and turns them from crunchy into a rich and velvety experience on the tongue. And, I dare say, when roasted well, the beet becomes a sweet vegetable that will have huge appeal, even to children. And roasting them over the direct fire of a barbecue, well, it’s primal (yes) and adds something even more than doing them in your oven.
So when I was reading through an email from CSA provider, Roots & Shoots Farm, a few weeks ago, they referenced an easy salad from Jamie Oliver for “fresh smoked salmon & beetroot salad.” I was inspired (again) by these ingredients to create my own. So yes, my salad takes some of the main ingredients from Jamie’s recipe (beets, salmon, and watercress) — because he’s a pretty clever and resourceful chef, to say the least — but changes up the supporting ingredients and the cooking techniques to create something my own. For example, I’m not big on horseradish (I actually hate the stuff) so instead I opted for a classic pairing with smoked salmon: onion. However, I chose to lightly roast these rings as well, a process that takes away their bite and brings even more sweetness to the dish. I also elected to go with my own dressing that I previously made and showcased with my Roasted Red-Kuri and Beet Salad: a lemon-maple vinaigrette. I chose this because, well, it is mine (yes) and very tasty but more than anything, the citrus would pair perfectly with the beets and the salmon. And, finally, as intrigued I was at the raw beet and as easy as this might be, as already mentioned, I love love love roasted beets, so I was going back to that ingredient, even though it would add an hour to the process, it would be an hour well-worth it. So, yes, this salad does take a little longer to make, but it is an easy hour while the beets quietly roast, time enough to prepare your main course or just sit and relax with a nice glass of wine.Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes
Total time: 75 minutes
Servings: 6 side salads or 4 as meals
Watercress Salad with Smoked Salmon & Roasted Beets
- 1/2 lb (225g) smoked salmon, thinly sliced
- 3-4 medium beets, tops removed
- 2 bunches of watercress, large stems removed
- 1 medium red onion, sliced into 1/2-inch (1-cm) whole rounds
- 2 ounces (55g) feta, crumbled
- 1/2 cup (125mL) extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons (45mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons (30mL) maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon (5mL) grainy ‘old style’ mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon (1mL) salt (to taste)
- Preheat grill to 375ºF (200ºC). Trim tops off the beets, leaving an inch or two of the stems attached. Lightly oil the beets and place them on the grill and roast for 25 minutes.
→ Alternatively, do this in oven. Line a roasting pan with parchment paper and otherwise follow the same instructions. Note: If using the oven method, some suggest wrapping them in foil to speed up the poaching. While this does improve the speed, I find unwrapped produces a richer flavour.
After 25 minutes, flip beets, and continue cooking for another 25 minutes. At the same time, place the onion rings on the grill and grill them for about 5-7 minutes per side, until grill marks just appear on each side: be careful as they will turn from perfect to burnt if left unwatched for long.
Remove onions when done, and set aside to cool.
The beets will be done when they are tender to the fingers if you squeezed/poked them. The beets will also start to ‘blister’ on the outside of their skin. Remove from grill and let cool in the fridge for about 25 minutes.
- While the beets are cooking, prepare the Lemon-Maple Vinaigrette by combining all the ingredients together in a graduated measuring cup. Stir well, and let sit.
- Prepare the watercress by cutting away the stems up to where the leaves start … and beyond this, break off any larger stems. While all edible, they tend to be a bit tougher. Thoroughly wash (immerse in water) a couple of times and then spin them dry. Set aside.
- When the beets and onions have cooled, you can begin to prepare them for the final steps before plating the dish. First, by place the onion rounds on a cutting board, place your fingers flat on top and using a very sharp chef’s knife, slice them through horizontally.
→ If this scares you or you don’t have a very sharp knife, you can dice the grilled onions instead.
Now prepare the beets by using a sharp paring knife to top and tail them and peel away the roasted skin, leaving the moist beet intact below. I recommend wearing a latex glove on the ‘holding’ hand to prevent staining.
Cut the beets into 1/4-inch (1/2-cm) rounds and place in a separate bowl.
- To plate and build the salad, arrange a handful of watercress on the plate; sprinkle the watercress with the feta; then arrange rounds of roasted beet around the plate; individually, pinch together slices of salmon and place arrange these between the beets; and then, finally, layer around individual rounds of grilled onion. Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of vinaigrette and serve.
Wine Pairing: An off-dry rose would pair very well as would many other choices.