Ruby reds with creamy blue

For days, I’ve been thinking about the beet salad I enjoyed at Sontes in Rochester, Minn. My biking partners and I spent a couple of nights in Rochester a few weeks ago when we were planning to bike the Root River Trail in the Lanesboro area. Lanesboro is only about 30 miles from Rochester.

We ordered a few tapas, or small plates, that evening and shared. Except the beet salad. We decided we each needed our own.

Local roasted beets, sliced oh so thin, were carefully arranged on the plate, made to look like a beautiful ruby red flower. The beet slices were dotted with bits of Carver County’s Shepherd’s Way Farms blue cheese,  sprinkled with pistachios and splashed with mango vinegar. Micro mustard greens were in the very center of the ruby flower. It was a work of (edible) art.

I roasted some small beets I bought at the farmers market, using the method suggested by Dorie Greenspan in her book, “around my french table.” Scrub the beets clean under running water. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the beets in a baking dish, pour in a few spoonfuls of water, cover the dish with foil and stab a little hole in it. Roast for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of the beets, until you can pierce them easily with a knife. Slip off the skins when the beets are cool enough to handle. I roasted the beets a few days before I planned to make the salad, so they were chilled and ready to slice. A mandolin works well for creating thinly sliced beets. If you don’t have one, use a sharp knife.

My recreation of the Sontes beet salad was delicious. I didn’t have mango vinegar, but used a splash of raspberry vinegar. Just the other day I bought a container of Hook’s Paradise Blue at my local food co-op. It comes from Mineral Point, Wisconsin. It is so creamy, not too strong with a touch of tropical fruit flavor. It was quite wonderful with the beets and pistachios.

At Sontes, the salad was adorned with a crown of micro mustard greens. I couldn’t find any in my local stores, but I did find some nice-looking watercress. The produce manager told me he’d been selling it like crazy. Apparently Dr. Oz mentioned the health benefits of watercress on his show and everyone was running to the store to buy some. It looked delicate sitting on top of the roasted beets and tasted divine.

There is really no recipe for this salad. But I’ll list the ingredients and you can take it from there.

If you get to Rochester, Minnesota, be sure to stop in at Sontes. We were there on a Friday night and were able to enjoy the live music coming from the bar as we dined. We were glad we had called ahead to make a reservation. It was a busy night at Sontes.

I may need to head back to the farmers market to check for more beets. I can’t get enough of this salad.

Roasted Beet Salad

  • 2 small roasted beets per person, skins removed, sliced very thin
  • Raspberry vinegar
  • Blue cheese of your choice
  • Raw pistachios, chopped
  • Micro mustard greens or watercress

For each serving, arrange beet slices on a salad plate. Splash with raspberry vinegar. Dot with blue cheese. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios. Top with greens.

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