Yield: Serves 4 to 6
Beets not only add an earthy sweetness to salad dressing, they also give the dressing a bright color. Here the slightly sweet dressing is paired with mildly bitter watercress and endive, mellow pears, and tangy blue cheese. This colorful salad makes an excellent first course for a simple meat-and-vegetable dinner, or you can serve it afterward, as a variation on the cheese-and-fruit dessert. If you enjoy grilling vegetables like fennel or zucchini, this dressing makes a good sauce for them.
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For the dressing:
- 1 small beet, larger than a golf ball but smaller than a baseball, cooked in boiling salted water until tender, about 30 minutes
- 1 cup orange juice (about 2 large oranges)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 medium lime)
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
For the salad:
- 2 bunches watercress, trimmed, washed, and dried
- 1 head endive, cut crosswise into thin rounds
- 2 ripe pears, cored and cut into thin slices
- 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese of your choice
- 1. When the cooked beet is cool enough to handle, trim off the ends, peel it, and cut it into quarters. In a small saucepan, combine the beet quarters, orange juice, garlic, and fennel seeds. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by two-thirds, about 20 minutes.
- 2. Pour the beet mixture into a blender or food processor and puree. Add the oil, vinegar, and lime juice, and pulse until well blended. Remove from the blender or food processor; stir in the parsley, and season with salt and pepper.
- 3. Put the watercress, endive, and pears in a large bowl. Stir the dressing well, pour enough over the salad to moisten all ingredients (there will be some dressing left over), and toss to coat. Place the salad on a platter or individual serving plates, sprinkle the blue cheese over the top, and serve.