This salad, while hearty and delicious, was especially satisfying to me because of how much thought I put behind it. It might sound silly to some, but I spent two days thinking about just how exactly to use the first fresh beet I ever bought.
I knew I wanted a roasted beet salad. I had some asparagus and fennel in the fridge — either of which would have paired well with beets. I went back and forth between the two, considering a dozen vinaigrettes in the process. Balsamic? Citrus? Red or white wine vinegar? What fresh herbs would I use? What about cheese? Shaved parmesan? Crumbled bleu or goat cheese?
I couldn't decide, so I put off the salad and picked up a grilled sausage sandwich for dinner instead.
The next morning I woke up to rain. Ok, roasted beets and asparagus it is, I thought. As I pondered the cheese question again, it hit me — what about a poached egg instead? People do that with salads or asparagus all the time. Would it work with beets? Why not? Aussies put beets and fried egg on their burgers. I searched recipes online to see if anyone else had done a beet and asparagus salad with poached egg. I didn't see anything exactly like it, but this salad with golden beets and an egg convinced me I was on the right track and inspired my vinaigrette choice. Cook and Eat's red wine-prosciutto vinaigrette made me think of Craig Cyr's warm bacon dressing I'd made and loved before.
It all came together in my head at that point: I'd start with arugula, a peppery green that is as far as I can go on the bitter scale (frisee, endive and others aren't for me). Then sweet roasted beets and tender asparagus would be drizzled with a warm vinaigrette made with red wine vinegar, pancetta, green onions, chives, honey and olive oil. To top it all off, a poached egg and black pepper.
The result was everything I hoped it would be.
Oh, and fresh roasted beets? Where have you been all my life? Same with poached eggs. I was silly ever to have had aversions to either in the past.
Roasted Beet and Asparagus Salad with Red Wine Bacon Vinaigrette
Original concept with vinaigrette idea from Craig Cyr of Columbia's Wine Cellar and Bistro. Makes two servings with some extra vinaigrette.
- 1 fresh beet (but if you're going to roast 1, you might as well make 1 or 2 more for another time)
- 1/2 pound asparagus
- 1/4 cup thick bacon or pancetta, chopped
- 1 or 2 green onions
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- 2 eggs
- 3 cups arugula
Heat oven to 425. Wash beets and cut off most of the stem. Add a 1/4 inch of water to a baking dish or roasting pan. Put beets in and cover with a lid or foil, roasting for 40 minutes to an hour depending on size. (This method from the NYT.)
In the meantime, prepare vinaigrette. Cook chopped bacon or pancetta over high heat in a small saucepan. Reduce heat, add the chopped white parts of green onion. Add red wine vinegar to deglaze. Allow to simmer and reduce. Add 1 teaspoon of honey, or to taste. Whisk in olive oil and chives. Remove from heat.
Check on the beets. When the beet can be easily poked with a fork or knife, remove from oven and allow to cool.
Pour water out from dish or pan. Add asparagus (with woody ends removed), drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper. Roast 10-15 minutes as you poach the eggs.
If you have never poached an egg, don't fear, neither had I. Try Smitten Kitchen's method, it worked perfectly for me the two times I've done it.
When eggs are poached and asparagus roasted, you're ready to prepare your plate. Start with a layer of arugula. Add a few slices of beets and pieces of asparagus (I cut my spears into thirds). Drizzle with some warm vinaigrette, but don't drench it, the egg will provide more liquid. Put the poached egg on top and grind some black pepper over it. Serve immediately.