“I was at your wonderful restaurant last weekend… I cannot get your Beet Salad out of my mind, it was so delicious! How do you coffee roast beets? Is that what makes the salad it so amazing?” – email from a diner at Ravens Nest.
Rich and I spent this past summer in Winter Harbor conceiving, opening, and running Ravens Nest Restaurant. When we designed the menu, we knew we needed a beet salad (we had such a winner at Cleonice) but we wanted a new salad, a better salad. We’d roasted beets with cumin to clean the “dirty” flavor, but I really don’t mind the earthiness of beets. Then, inspired by an article about French Chef Anne-Sophie Pic, we tried roasting beets with coffee. The combination seemed sound in theory and in reality were just divine. The coffee somehow deepens the rich flavor of the beets while enhancing a caramel note. We dressed them with classic Dijon dressing, added house made pickles that changed through the season, ricotta salata (a lighter cheese), pumpkin seeds, and roasted carrots to complete a salad that wowed customers all summer.
The salad is simple, yet a little time-consuming with roasting time. I suggest planning a day ahead or so (even better if you already have the oven running for another meal) roast your beets and carrots then pop them in the fridge until you’re ready to put your salad together.
Start by roasting the beets. Mix one cup of kosher salt and about half a cup of coffee grounds together. Used coffee grounds work just fine, there is plenty of flavor left over in the grounds. To make this batch I simply mixed my used grounds from the morning with a cup of kosher salt.
Wash beets and trim off greens (if attached). Line an oven proof dish with aluminum foil and place your beets on the foil.
Pack the salt and coffee mixture around the beets and wrap it up, closing the foil over the top. Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the beets are done (ranges depending on the size of your beets, check at 30 minutes).
After you’ve got the beets in the oven, turn your attention to the carrot. We found roasting carrots with coffee was just too much. While the coffee enhances the beets it overpowers the carrots. Instead we roasted the carrots in salt seasoned with allspice. For this recipe we used one large new carrot (thin-skinned) and packed it in salt spiced with four allspice berries crushed in a mortar and pestle. Wrap the carrot in foil packed in the allspice salt separate from the beets and roast. A carrot takes much shorter to roast than the beets, about 20 minutes at 400.
Beets are done when a fork can pierce them easily. Allow the beets to cool before attempting to peel.
Roasted beets get peeled just like boiled beets. cut off the stem end and pull down to remove skin. You might need to cut into the beet a little more than boiled depending on the moisture level of your beets, but it still comes off easily. This pink beet is a Chioggia beet, the kind with the red and white bulls eye when raw.
On to the dressing
This classic dressing should be in everyone’s arsenal. Simple and delicious it enhances all kinds of vegetables without covering up flavors. I am going to use a nutribullet, a smoothie maker, which I use to make sauces almost as much as I use to make smoothies. You can also use an immersion blender or just a whisk, the Dijon easily emulsifies the dressing to give a creamy texture.
Combine minced shallot, Dijon, mild olive oil, and white wine vinegar (red or cider vinegar can be substituted) in your bullet or bowl and blend or whip until thoroughly combined. Taste for salt (saltiness of the Dijon can vary).
See how creamy it looks? The vinegar is suspended in the oil (emulsified) to create this texture. This dressing is the same one that we used on Cleonice’s Spinach Salad, so take note.
Back to the lovely beets. Cut the beets into chunks, I cut them into eighths. You’re looking for a good bite size.
Cut the carrot into spears. Because I used a thin skinned fresh young carrot, I don’t need to peel it. If yours has been stored a while and has a thick skin, peel it with a peeler before cutting it into spears.
Now play artist.
Pile up your dressed beets in the middle of the plate. Tidy up after any bloody spots with a clean rag or paper towel. Then arrange the rest of your ingredients around and on top of the beets, finally sprinkling with toasted pumpkin seeds.
Ricotta Salata is a young cheese, it is actually pressed ricotta that aged for 90 days. Classically made from sheep’s milk, it is usually a stark white. This is a Maine Ricotta Salata made with cow milk so it has a buttery yellow hue. I chose to cut it into spears, we often used curls made with a peeler at the restaurant.
The pickles I used here are watermelon radish pickles with red onions. We used pickled fiddleheads, zucchini, or green beans for service at the restaurant. Any simple herbed vinegar and salt-brined fresh pickle will give you a nice contrasting flavor to the rich beets. The toasted pumpkin seeds give the perfect textural crunch to finish the dish.
- 2 lb fresh Beets, washed and greens trimmed
- 1 cup and ¼ cup kosher salt
- 1 cup approx, used coffee grounds
- 1 large carrot, preferably freshly harvested
- 4 allspice berries
- ¼ lb ricotta salata cheese
- pickled vegetables, optional, your choice
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted lightly
- Dijon Dressing (see next recipe post)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Put clean beets on a large piece of aluminum foil in an oven-safe dish.
- Mix coffee and one cup of salt together and pack around beets.
- Wrap the foil up and around the beets to make a package.
- Roast for about 45 minutes or until a fork easily pierces the beets.
- Crack the allspice berries in a mortar and pestle and mix with ¼ cup of salt.
- Wrap the carrot with the allspice salt like you did the beets and roast for 20 minutes.
- Peel and cut the beets into bite sized chunks, then dress with the Dijon dressing.
- Cut carrot and cheese into spears.
- Pile the dressed beets in the center of your plate and arrange the cheese, carrot, and pickles around the beets.
- Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds.
Notes: It’s easy to turn this into a full lunch or dinner salad by adding a bed of spinach and enjoying it with a little crusty bread, maybe even add a few chick peas to that salad.
These coffee roasted beets are definitely not a one trick pony. I would love them with hummus, tzatziki, and some greens in a pita. Try them on their own as a side dish for a roast. I’m also thinking they would taste really good with an orange vinaigrette in a kale salad.
Beets store nicely and local beets should be available year round, but the supermarkets seem to love to sell the one from away with the greenery attached in the winter. Check natural food stores, coops, and winter farmers markets to keep it local.