Apple and Roasted Beet Salad

When I was about 16 years old I decided that there was, like, no possible way that I was EVER going to eat meat again, EVER FOREVER because that’s just GROSS.  I promptly put stickers on my school binders with pictures of adorable little puppies sitting on dinner plates and slogans like, “You eat other animals, don’t you?” and campaigned to anyone who would listen on why drinking milk was horrifying, or the perils of pig farms.   This lasted for about three years (including an unfortunate attempt at veganism which lasted less than a week) until I realized that something was wrong – I would wake up from a dream that I was eating a juicy, succulent rare steak only to find out that I was gnawing on my saliva soaked pillow.  Oh, and then there was bacon.  The scent of bacon in the air at a local breakfast joint.  The memory of wondrous, salty, delicious bacon was simply too much for me.  Yes, I was the vegetarian who CONSTANTLY craved bacon.  CONSTANTLY.  It just wasn’t meant to be.  

But going back to a time before I rediscovered peanut butter and bacon sandwiches, I had a subscription to  Vegetarian Times magazine.  Growing up in a meat-eating household, a lot of my vegetarian meals were pasta, stir-fry, pasta, salad, pasta……I was always looking for something different.  VT had a recipe one time for an apple and beet salad I think, and although I don’t remember what went into it the intriguing and delicious flavour combination stuck with me. 

I’ve been making this salad for years, in various incarnations.  I experimented with different types of vinegars, herbs, additions like honey or horseradish (and both, one time), and so on.  I do like change and variety, and yet for some reason over the last five years or so this is how I always make it.  No changes, no variations, just good ol’ apple and beet salad.  So healthy!  So delicious and full of antioxidants!  Such a wonderful way to use up a fraction of the bushel of beets I bought last week!

Making this salad was also a good reminder to me that we’ve been eating a lot of meat lately, and it’s time for me to bring more of my vegetarian favourites out of the cupboard.  I bet Mike has a look of horror on his face right now, imagining endless evenings of tofu stir-fry on brown rice.  Speaking of, I would love your help with what I am calling “The Tofu Tribunal”.  More on that at the end of the post…

Apple and Roasted Beet Salad

Serves 6 as a side dish

  • 2 large Granny Smith apples
  • 8 – 10 small beets (or 4 large)
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1/8 red onion
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + some to drizzle
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • small handful fresh dill, about 2 tbsp
  • salt and pepper to taste

Other important equipment:

  • RUBBER GLOVES

Preheat your oven to 400F, and snap on your rubber gloves.  If you have ever worked with beets before, you understand why this is an important step.  Generally, I have a rather cavalier approach to cooking and don’t wear gloves unless it is absolutely necessary, but I had a “Very Important Meeting” at work the next day and it would not have been wise to show up with my fingers tinted Barbie Party Pink.

Begin by prepping the beets for roasting.  Don’t you love roasted beets?  They get so sweet with that rich beet flavour – if colours have tastes, beets definitely taste how they look.  Glorious.  Peel the beets and cut off the root tip and the rough bit on the top where the greens were growing.

Roll out 2 pieces of tinfoil about the same length as your arm.  Nestle about half of the beets on each one.  Drizzle them lightly with olive oil and speckle with kosher or sea salt.  Apologies for the shoddy photo, apparently lightly oiled beets don’t like getting their picture taken.

Wrap the packages up nice and tightly!  Onto a baking sheet these go, and into the oven for 45 min – 1 hour.  Flip the parcels over after about 1/2 hour to make sure that they cook evenly.  They will start to release an earthy, slightly sweet fragrance when they’re close to done.

You will know that the beets are done when they are easily pierced with a fork.  Unwrap them and let those beauties cool down to room temperature while you prepare the rest of the salad. 

Chop your celery stalks in half so that they are sized into more manageable chunks.  Slice each piece vertically into 4 long strips, and chop them into a 1/4 inch dice.

Did you think it was strange that I said 1/8 red onion?   I suppose that it is, but I can’t be bothered to fuss with measuring out how many tbsp or grams of onion we’re using.  All that I know is:  1/4 onion is too overpowering, and not having onion would be a sorrowful omission – the thought of that makes me unhappy.  Please don’t make me sad, just use 1/8 red onion instead.

Do your best to slice these finely by cutting into thirds…..

….and then going across in narrow sweeps.

Ah, the dressing.  Note:  I make no claims that this is a classic vinaigrette.  It’s too thick, the oil to vinegar ratio is totally whacked, and…and…well, I’m sure there are other problems.  This dressing is thick enough to stick on the beets though, so you don’t end up with a pool of dressing at the bottom of the bowl (until the second day).  It’s also tart, pungent, and a great complement to the salad. 

In a bowl mix the Dijon mustard with the olive oil.  Give it a good whisk.

Gradually whisk in the red wine vinegar.  And no, this is not an enormous volume of dressing in a great big mixing bowl, I’m just using my favourite Lilliputian whisk to mix it up.

Finely chop the fresh dill.  If you don’t have fresh dill, as I often don’t, feel free to use 1 tbsp of dried.

Mix everything together and season with salt and pepper.  Well, unless you aren’t comfortable with that – you can season at the end.  I suppose.  I don’t, but I won’t judge.  Also:  this salad enjoys being seasoned generously with both salt and freshly ground pepper, so have no fear.

Core and chop up your apples. The easiest way to do this is to slice your apple in half from top to bottom.  Cut each in half again (still vertically) and then on an angle into 4 wedges.  The fastest way to core them (because I’m usually in a rush) is just to slice the core section out of each wedge in a parallel cut.  Think of the apple wedge as being like a piece of pie, and cut off the triangular tip of the slice (totally the best part) which is where the seeds are in your apple.  Or just do whatever you like.  Sigh.  Slice the wedges horizontally into chunks that are 1/4 inch width.

Add the apples, celery and onion to a bowl which is big enough to mix them, and pour on the salad dressing.  Tossing the apples in the dressing right away will help to prevent them from discolouring.  The salad IS actually in a glass mixing bowl right now and not on my counter, although that’s hard to see.  For once, having a dirty bowl wouldn’t have been a liability I suppose.

Chop the beets into a 1/2 inch dice.  Each piece should be about twice the thickness of the apples.  Mix the beets in with the rest of the salad right before you serve it.  It’s always prettier when you see the colour contrast, and in about 35 seconds the beets will be turning everything they touch pink.

Fresh, delicious and completely heart-healthy Apple and Roasted Beet Salad.  I gave it a simple garnish of some thinly sliced green apples and a sprig of dill, and we’re away to the races!

Apples and beets, together:  don’t be afraid.  They’re friends.  Good friends.  The kind of friends that you start to wonder if they’re JUST friends, if you know what I mean.  Oh, those charming beets.  No wonder they make everyone blush.

What’s playing:  Beautiful Mess  by Diamond Rio

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS:  “THE TOFU TRIBUNAL” IS SET TO BEGIN.

The Tofu Tribunal:  Here’s the thing.  I love tofu.  I mean I really, really love tofu.  I like it soft, firm, smoked (SO GOOD), fried, baked – I like to eat it raw, in chunks like a cheese tray.  Mike does not share this passion with me.  Far from it, as a matter of fact.  The mere mention of tofu and his face screws up like I’ve suggested we make barbecued rat for dinner.  He will sometimes try tofu though, and even accompanied my family to a vegan Chinese food restaurant (Tina:  it was awesome.  Mike: BLEEECH) but firmly believes that tofu is devil’s work that he will never enjoy. 

I disagree.  I think that tofu is a fabulous canvas for flavors, and that with the right recipe or cooking technique he will enjoy it.  And once I get him to admit that he liked it once…….

So please, help me.  Help me to help Mike like tofu.  Do you have a recipe that tofu-haters change teams for?  Do you know how to cook tofu so it doesn’t taste, look or feel like what we consider tofu to be?  If so, please send it on for us to try.  It might just be the recipe that passes the test of The Tofu Tribunal.

(I can only imagine how cranky he’ll be after reading this.  So.  Very.  Mad.  Wish me luck)

  • Alison

    I am making this salad! I am making this salad like……on Saturday. When I get home from my all-day volleyball tourney. And I know exactly what we need to cook/bake/smoke the next time I come down. TOFU!!!! I just realized it’s one thing we’ve never eaten together, and I love it too. And I bet you make it way better than me. And I bet that Mike can’t complain if a guest wants tofu, right? Awesome. Beets and tofu it is!

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Perfect…we’ll break him down by peer pressure alone!!
    I hope you like the salad – let me know what you think!

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

    Attention readers: I am open to your recommendations for barbequed rat; there is a greater likelihood that I will enjoy it than your tofu recipes.

  • http://TheSpitefulChef.blogspot.com Kristie

    Phew. Tofu is one of those things that I make and enjoy, but then have had enough of for about a month. It’s kind of like taking a vitamin, only it doesn’t make your pee so virulently yellow.

    I’ve discovered that the only kind of tofu I find palatable is extremely, freakishly firm. Chewy, I’d call it. So maybe if you squeeze out all of the liquid, then put it in hot and sour soup? That’s how I first encountered tofu, and perhaps why I’ll eat it today. Hot and Sour soup makes tofu all dreamy and hot, despite the fact that it’s actually pretty ugly. It’s like beer goggles for tofu.

    You can put silken tofu in a blender with yogurt and berries and it makes a hella-good protein shake. Anyway, didn’t they say that men shouldn’t eat soy on account of it giving them scrotal cancer or bitch tits or something?

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    KRISTIE, ‘SCROTAL CANCER’ IS NOT HELPING THE CAUSE!! I like the suggestion about the protein shake though – I think as long as it’s Tofu Incognito I’ll stand a better chance. If he sees a chunk of tofu that looks, smells and tastes like tofu – game over.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

    I like my scrotum! Don’t you take my scrotum away!

  • http://TheSpitefulChef.blogspot.com Kristie

    Mike,

    Sheesh! You can keep your scrotum, okay? You should be grateful. Everyone knows that cancer causes tumors, and haven’t you always wanted to look like you had three nuts?

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

    Only if I have the output to match.

    WELCOME TO OUR CLASSY BLOG

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  • http://noodlefever.blogspot.com kt

    It’s not a recipe per se, but if you are ever in SF, you should get the homemade ankake tofu at Eiji. It’s covered in a savory glaze, made fresh daily, and tastes a lot like the Japanese egg custard, chawan mushi. We have taken many friends there, including tofu-skeptics, and all have loved it.