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Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese & Candied Pecans

May 3, 2014

 

Many of my most prized recipes can be found in several collections of dog-eared, food-stained photocopies dating back to a cooking class I took in Brandon, Manitoba nearly a decade ago.

It was an evening class taught by two chefs: Andy Ormiston and Larry deVries. Larry had been the instructor in the culinary program at the high school I attended (though I didn’t take his class). By this time he was an instructor at Assiniboine Community College.

The class was amazing, and really solidified my growing confidence in the kitchen. There were about 18 students. Every Wednesday evening we’d meet, get a short lesson, then pair up, grab a recipe and all the needed ingredients, and get to work. About 90 minutes later we’d sit down and enjoy an amazing meal together.

What made the class particularly memorable for me was that I enrolled with my father, whose name, as it happens, is also Kerry Campbell. I think the other students got a kick out of our pairing.

Anyway, I still have all the recipes from that class, and refer to them often. This one is the best. I hope Larry and Andy don’t mind that I’ve included it here.

Fresh Beets

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese & Candied Pecans

For the candied pecans:
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
pinch of salt
1 lb. pecan halves

For the salad:
3 bunches baby beets (preferably a mix of red, gold and chioggia beets), washed and with tops removed
4 oz. spinach, arugula or mixed greens, washed and spun dry
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
3 oz. crumbled goat cheese

For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar (use red wine vinegar if you can’t find sherry)
1 large shallot, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

Roast Beets in Foil1. Roast the beets. This can be done well in advance (even the day before). Preheat oven to 400°. Wrap beets in foil. Roast until easily pierced with a fork, about an hour. Remove from the oven, open the foil and allow them to cool. Once they cool they should be easy to peel. Set them aside or put them in the fridge.

2. For the candied pecans: reset oven to 350°. Lightly oil two baking sheets, or spray with non-stick spray. Put the honey, water, sugar and salt in a large saucepan over high heat and boil until the sugar has dissolved (it won’t take long). And the pecans and cook, stirring constantly, until the pecans are completely covered in syrup and the bottom of the pan is dry.

Pecans Cooking3. Remove from heat, and pour onto one of the baking sheets, trying to spread them out in a single layer. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the nuts turn dark brown. While doing this, but the other baking sheet in the freezer. I’m not sure if that actually helps, but it can be a tricky business getting the nuts cooled down the right temperature and separated. I think I had this mastered once. If I remember what I used to do, I’ll let you know.

4. Remove the nuts from the oven and switch them to the second sheet. Spread them out a little and stick them back in the freezer for maybe five minutes. You don’t want to cool them off so much that they completely harden. Remove the tray from the freezer when the nuts have cooled enough to handle. You want to separate them, and also prevent them from re-attaching when you’re done. I found last time spreading them on a piece of parchment helped with this. Once they’ve cooled and separated you can store them in the freezer until they’re ready to use.

5. To make the vinaigrette: in a stainless steel bowl, combine the sherry wine vinegar, shallot and salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil.

6. To assemble the salad, first chop the beets into thick slices. On a bed of greens, add the beets, dill, pecans and crumbled goat cheese. Serve with vinaigrette.

It might seem like a lot of work, but it’s just the pecans that can be tricky, and they get easier once you get the hang of them. They can also be made well in advance and frozen. I’ve looked (and occasionally even found) store-bought candied pecans, but these ones are much, much better than anything I’ve seen.

TIP: You can use pickled beets in this.

TIP: If your beets have nice, fresh tops, you can add those to your greens, or use just those if you have enough of them. Early beet greens are delicious, but they toughen up later in the season. If they’re not soft enough for a salad, you might still be able to sauté them with butter and garlic and serve them that way.

TIP: When I’m making the candied pecans, I clean all my pans and utensils under hot water the instant I’m done with them. Once that candy hardens it makes for a really difficult clean-up job.

Beet and Pecan Salad 2

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From → Food, Recipes

2 Comments
  1. A pretty and yummy salad!

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  1. Crispy Beet & Sweet Potato Hash | Mussel Beach

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