We were thinking of something a bit lighter for dinner. Not quite as light as a simple salad — more filling than that — just something that would leave us satiated, but not overfull. Of course, the first thing we do is to look around in the refrigerator (in reality, we think about what’s in the refrigerator rather than opening the fridge door — one of us has had too many childhood admonitions about wasting energy by letting out the cold air) to see what is available. This week, it was beets, grapefruit, and arugula. Perfect.
Often this type of salad includes fresh goat cheese, but, since goat cheese shares don’t start at the CSA until next month, we went without. Of course, if you, fellow scratcher, happen to have some on hand, it would be a great addition to your salad.
This salad would look best with several colors or types of beets: deep, dark red — perhaps a Bull’s blood beet, bright yellow, and maybe a Chioggia beet for those lovely rings inside. If you have several types of beet, roast them in separate foil packets to prevent the red beets from leaking into the lighter shades. We only had dark red beets (we think they were Bull’s blood, but we’re not sure) so that’s what we used. The arugula is there for a peppery contrast to the sweet beets and the tang of grapefruit, but a slightly bitter leaf lettuce would work just as well. For a little crunch and sweetness, we made candied walnuts while the beets were roasting. Why not do dual duty?
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Well, beets aren’t too particular about the temperature at which they roast. We chose 350°F because we were making the candied walnuts at the same time. We could have easily set the oven anywhere between 300 and 425°F and the beets would have been fine.
Season beets. Once the beets are scrubbed and the tops and roots trimmed back, place them on a large piece of foil and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Use your hand to rub in the oil so each beet is coated. Follow up with a generous pinch of kosher salt.
Roast beets. Wrap up the foil into a packet that will seal in the moisture, place the packet on a baking sheet — the foil can leak — and bake until the beets feel tender, about 60 minutes. Remove and let stand until cool enough to handle.
Peel beets. The skins should just slip right off. This is the best way we know to peel beets. The skins are too tough before cooking, and simmering them in water doesn’t work as well, but roasting makes it easy to pick up a beet and use your fingers to rub the skin right off.
Chill. Place the beets in the refrigerator to chill completely.
Segment grapefruit. Years ago, we would try peeling grapefruit (or oranges) to get the segments for salad. While we still do this for some citrus, notably tangerines, we now use a chef’s knife to make quick work of segmenting a grapefruit. Follow along, remembering to segment over a bowl to catch the excess grapefruit juice. First, slice off the top and bottom of the grapefruit. Stand it on one of the sliced ends for stability, and cut off the peel from top to bottom. Now, simply pick up the grapefruit, and, while holding it over a bowl, cut out each segment in turn. Finally, squeeze out any juice from the remaining core; we need that juice for the salad dressing.
Assemble salad. While you could toss the arugula, beet slices, and grapefruit all together, we don’t recommend it, because the beets will color everything red. Instead, nicely layer the arugula in the bowl, followed by grapefruit segments and beet slices. Sprinkle those candied walnuts around the top for interest. All we need now is to make up a quick and easy dressing.
Make dressing. You’ll have grapefruit juice left in the bowl, so just add the honey, mustard (which helps the oil mix with the juice to form an emulsion), oil, salt, and pepper and give it all a quick whisking. Drizzle over the salad and serve.
Now, if you’re just planning to make a salad, this one is a lot of trouble — especially the roasting and peeling of the beets, then chilling — and it’ll take several hours from start to finish. But, if you’re roasting beets anyway (it really is the easiest and best way to get beets ready for a lot of dishes), set aside a few for this refreshing salad. Then all you need to do is segment a grapefruit or two, add some greens, and you have a salad that, if it’s a large salad, will easily fit the bill for a light dinner. That’s what we did. Four stars.