When I saw a package of vacuum-sealed, pre-steamed beets at Trader Joe's last week, it was a done deal. Now, I definitely applaud Clay and Zach's preparation because this is one complicated dish. It sounds simple enough- roasted beets, goat cheese, country ham, and cornbread croutons with a citrus vinaigrette- but once you get into the recipe, there are a lot of things going on. Certainly way too much going on for my 8:30 cooking time crunch after Property class on a Monday night, so this was going to have to be "bastardized" (I don't know if that's a proper useage of the term, but it's certainly fun to say!).
I'm not usually a big proponent of the "supermarket shortcuts", but in some cases the margin of difference between the homemade and the shortcut is way too slim for me to bother. Thus, pre-steamed beats! Thanks, TJ's. These cut out the messy and time-consuming roasting and peeling steps for beets and makes them a much more attractive quick meal option. The package contains about 6 small beets, which I cut into 1/8 size wedges for the salad.
Some other shortcuts would have to be made as well to par this recipe down to weeknight achievement level. I love cornbread and am completely loyal to my stepmom's version, which comes from her mom. She was from Alabama- that's authentic enough for me!
Finally, the recipe's citrus vinaigrette also sounds amazing but a little too complicated for weeknight post-class cooking. I decided to check with my go-to reference, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, which is truly a cooking encyclopedia. Pages 90-94 are filled with variations on vinaigrettes, allowing me to concoct a blood orange variety that I hoped would match well with the earthy beets and creamy goat cheese- and of course, salty bacon! Plus, I figured that the blood orange segments would be a natural addition to this salad, and they look gorgeous.
Once the cornbread is baked, croutons toasted, beets steamed (or microwaved, if you have that TJ's option), and vinaigrette concocted, all that's left is assembly. I placed the croutons at the bottom of the bowl and topped them with the beet wedges, blood orange segments, green onions (just 1 chopped scallion, green and white parts), crumbles of goat cheese (this was an herb chevre from TJ's, but really any flavorful goat cheese will be great), and bacon pieces, then drizzled the blood orange vinaigrette on top.
Honestly- I was betting that this was going to be good, but I really had no idea. This salad is great. The flavors worked perfectly together and there was enough going on that it wasn't a boring or wimpy salad at all- I had just this (and ok, a slice of cornbread- it was just sitting there waiting!) for dinner and was totally satisfied. And despite the various components, it really does come together quite quickly- if you made the cornbread in advance, it would be almost all assembly time.
So, below is my bastardized version of this delicious beet salad- let me know how it goes if you try it out!
Bastardized Beet Salad with Bacon and Cornbread Croutons
adapted from Bon Appétit (January 2009)
*1 package Trader Joe's steamed and peeled baby beets; or alternatively, 6-8 small baby beets, steamed and peeled.
-Warm beets and cut into 1/8 size wedges.
* 1 package Jiffy cornbread mix
* 1/3 cup milk (preferably whole)
* 1 large egg
-Prepare cornbread according to package directions. Cut 2 slices into cubes. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and toast at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until croutons are crisp.
BLOOD ORANGE VINAIGRETTE
* Juice of 1 blood orange half (about 1/4 cup)
* 1 tablespoon lemon juice
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1/3 cup olive oil
-Whisk blood orange juice, lemon juice, and salt together. Continue whisking and add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Taste and season to your preference.
* 3 slices bacon, chopped
* 2 green onions, chopped
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley
* 2 oz. soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
* Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
-Saute bacon in a skillet over low heat until the pieces are lightly browned and crisp; drain on a paper towel.
-Assemble salad: corn bread croutons, beets, orange segments, bacon, green onions, parsley, goat cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle vinaigrette and enjoy!