Super salad with unbeatable beets


April 18, 1999|By Annette Gooch | Annette Gooch,Universal Press Syndicate

Earthy-sweet flavor, a color palette ranging from deepest burgundy to white, and a bonus of leafy greens make an unbeatable combination: beets. While vitamin A-rich beet leaves are quite good in salads or wilted in hot olive oil, it's the fiber-rich roots that cooks appreciate most.

In French bistro and country cuisine, beets pickled with onions are a popular accompaniment to sausages and other meats, and often appear on platters of crudites.

In Eastern Europe and Russia, red beets are the main ingredient in what amounts to a beloved national dish: a robust soup known as borscht, which is always served with sour cream.

A classic Lyonnaise cafe dish is pickled beets on a bed of curly endive, a faintly bitter salad green with delicately fringed leaves.

Pickled Beet Salad

Serves 6

8 medium or 16 small beets

2 cups white wine vinegar

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup sugar

6 sprigs thyme

1 bay leaf

3 large cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup thinly sliced onion

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 small heads curly endive

1/2 cup olive oil

minced chives, for garnish

Scrub beets well. Place in a covered steamer and steam over boiling water until beets can be pierced easily with a knife (20 to 25 minutes), adding more water to steamer as necessary. Drain beets and plunge into cold water. When cool enough to handle, peel and slice into 1/4 -inch-thick rounds.

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar to a boil. Simmer 3 minutes. Add sliced beets, turn to coat with liquid, and cook 2 minutes. With slotted spoon, transfer beets to a stainless-steel, glass or enamel bowl. Add thyme, bay leaf, garlic cloves and onion.

Over high heat, reduce liquid in saucepan to 1 cup. Pour over beets and toss to coat. Cool to room temperature, then transfer to a covered container and refrigerate for at least 3 days or up to 2 weeks.

Remove beets from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Discard garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Wash and dry endive and separate into leaves. Line individual salad plates or a large serving platter with endive. Top with beets and onions. Drizzle salad lightly with beet liquid, then drizzle with olive oil and garnish with chives.

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