This is an ode to the beautiful salads of the Ottolenghi Restaurant–Roasted Beet Salad, a little sweetheart of a salad.
I think there is actually quite an art to serving a deliciously beautiful salad: to maintain the integrity of fresh ingredients while imparting flavor requires utilizing two key cooking factors–time and temperature–a deft hand with both are the key to serving forth a perfectly prepped salad.
The book Ottolenghi, The Cookbook, arrived here in the States in 2008 (via UK print version, 2013 marked release of US version) and I was immediately drawn, of course to the beautiful recipes, but also the restaurant’s philosophy–to create an environment as close to a domestic experience as possible, with chefs, waiters and diners participating, as if being at big table in a busy kitchen.
Elegant, yet attainable recipes are especially evident in the book’s beautiful collection of salads. Mounded high on simple white plates, served against a backdrop of boxes of fresh produce, probably part of the very food you are enjoying. The Notting Hill restaurant does not employ the massive glass refrigerated deli cases we are used to seeing. Of course food requires refrigeration, but the flavors of over-chilled foods are lost–most foods come into their own when served at room temperature or warm, and as the authors also note if there isn’t a fridge the salads must be fresh.
Although there has probably not been a more recently over-done salad than one containing roasted beets, this little gem pulls ahead with freshness and simplicity, it’s a beet salad I truly love to serve. I have adapted the recipe slightly, using watercress as the base for a peppery bite, which joins sweet roasted beets amplified by sherry vinegar and maple syrup, crunchy sunflowers seeds, with lots of my favorite fresh herb chervil to finish. Once the components are all prepared the salad pulls together quickly and then off to a serving platter to enjoy–freshness savored.
Enjoy a little sweetheart of a beet salad and wishing everyone a Happy Valentines Day!