Fall might be my favorite season for weather and cooking but spring is a very close second contender when it comes to food. After months of the same veggies and types of dishes, spring comes rushing in with all it’s bright flavors and colorful produce. It’s a welcome reprieve from the common duo of carrots and potatoes. Sure, current technology and preservation allows us to have almost any fruit or vegetable we want year round but if you try to cook seasonally, winter gets old after a while.
There are a lot of reasons to cook with the seasons. Produce is at its best when it's in season. I’ve bought out of season peaches and asparagus. The peaches were bland and the asparagus was limp. Strawberries aren’t as sweet, watermelon isn’t as juicy, tomatoes aren’t as flavorful. Cooking with the seasons also gives you the opportunity to support local farmers and small businesses. Nothing makes me happier than to wake up early on Sundays and head to the farmers market to buy produce for the week. I also love that our local grocery stores are beginning to include “Farmer Stands” to support local farms.
With all this in mind and different produce slowly making its way into stores, I’ve been able to start playing with spring recipes including today’s salad! I had the chance to watch Rick Bayless perform a cooking demonstration recently at a food expo and it inspired this recipe. He used an indoor grill pan to grill some beets for a minimal side salad alongside a tasty meatball dish. It got me inspired to break out my new square grill pan from Ayesha Curry’s Home Collection at Target. This has actually become one of my favorite pans to cook with and makes grilling year-round easy. This salad is a little bit different from what I saw Rick whip up but it is minimalist like his.
Beets are sliced before getting a veggie oil rub down and seasoned with salt and pepper. Grill them on each side, just long enough so you can see grill marks. They will be soft enough at this point and ready to eat. One of the things Rick said during his demo that stayed with me was that the main difference between home cooks and professional cooks is their use of fire. Home cooks are afraid of heat. I took that as a personal challenge and have been firing up my cast-iron skillet and grill pans without apprehension! However, with a higher heat you need an oil with a higher smoke point. Vegetable oil is good but I love using Grapeseed Oil. I find it lighter both in consistency and flavor. Sometimes you get an odd aftertaste with vegetable oil.
So while the beets are cooking, I’ll rinse some arugula and dry it with paper towels. You can prepare this salad in a large dish for everyone to serve themselves or prep all the individual salads on plates. Make a bed of the arugula, arrange the grilled beets on top and then garnish with a few goat cheese crumbles and balsamic vinaigrette. The combination of tang from the cheese, tartness and acidity from the balsamic and sweetness of the beets is a match made in heaven. This is meant as more of a side dish rather than a main dish. I paired it along with a simple, grilled steak but it would be equally delicious with grilled chicken or pork chops, even fish!
Grilled Beet Salad with Arugula & Goat Cheese
3 small Beets, peeled and slice to about ¼ inch thickness
1 tbsp. Grapeseed Oil
4 ounces Arugula
Goat Cheese Crumbles (for garnish)
Balsamic Vinaigrette (for garnish)
Salt & Pepper
1 - Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat and brush lightly with oil. Brush the beets on either side with a little oil and season with salt and pepper. Grapeseed oil goes a long way so you don't need more than a tablespoon or two. To help control oil usage, pour it into a small bowl and dip a pastry brush to apply instead of directly pouring it.
2 - Place the beets on the grill and let cook about 6-8 minutes per side or until you can see the grill marks.
2 - On a platter or large plate (or on individual plates), create a bed of arugula for the beets. Once they’re finished cooking, arrange over the arugula. Sprinkle with goat cheese and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Serve.