This salad combines beets — a vegetable that’s available nearly year-round at Northern California farmer’s markets, with two herbs I grow nearly year-round in my own garden. I almost never buy herbs from the grocery store, in fact, because it takes such little effort to grow them yourself and it’s so much more economical. Instead of paying $2.99 for cut basil at the market that will whither and fade within about five days, I pay 99 cents for a four-inch pot of basil at my local hardware store and have a living plant that regenerates cuts stems throughout the warmer months. I’ve been growing parsley, tarragon, chervil, and sage the same way this year, too. They don’t require special soil or a lot of fuss, and they provide an endless supply of fresh flavor as long as you do the simple things like remember to water them regularly and trim dead or insect-bitten leaves. Grow yourself a little herb garden this fall and everything from pasta to omelettes will all of a sudden seem so much more interesting.
In this beet salad, be sure to ribbon the mint extra-fine so you get its fresh, delicate flavor without the rough texture. For a quick tutorial on how to make herb ribbons, check out my Video Page. About halfway down the page, you’ll find one called “Basil Ribbons.” The technique works for mint and many other kinds of broad, firm-leafed herbs.
If you can’t find red chard, substitute baby spinach. I like baby chard for purely aesthetic reasons: I like the red veining in the leaves.
3 red beets
3 yellow beets
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp orange juice
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp grated orange zest
2 tbsp finely ribboned fresh mint
2 tbsp finely ribboned fresh Italian basil
1/4 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste.
6 ounces baby red chard
Cut the greens from the beets, leaving about two inches of stem intact. Do not peel or further trim the actual root. Scrub them vigorously with a vegetable brush to remove any dirt or debris. Place them in a medium pot and cover with two inches of water. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 40 minutes or until the beets are tender. (Pierce one with a fork to test.) Larger beets may take longer, smaller beets may cook more quickly. Remove the cooked beets from the water and allow to cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. Whisk the vinegar, orange juice, olive oil, orange zest, basil, and mint in a medium bowl until blended. (Reserve some herbs to use as a garnish, if desired.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Once the beets are cool, gently pull the skins and stems off using your fingers. They should just peel away. (Wear gloves if you don’t want your hands stained purple, and be sure to protect your clothing!) Dice the beets into 1/2-inch cubes.
Toss the cubed beets with the dressing and refrigerate for at least twenty minutes (this will allow the dressing to penetrate the beets before serving.) Taste for additional salt and pepper, then arrange over a bed of the chard or other greens. Garnish with additional chopped fresh basil and mint.