A Salad That Can’t Be Beet!
By Dennis Linden
Melissa’s own Chef Andrew Faulkner put down the phone at his busy late-night order desk in the company’s Food Service Department to contribute this whimsically delicious salad recipe. Using all three colors of one of the jewels from the fall harvest season, tender baby beets, Andrew pairs these sweet roots perfectly with the delicate flavors of assorted petite lettuces, tossing both in a lemony vinaigrette laced with shallot. To finish, the chef adds the tangy-creaminess of bleu cheese, cut into interesting shapes, and sprinkled over the plating in a light-hearted presentation that brings a smile just looking at it. However, those little shapes are more than just a fun visual aid; the rich flavor of bleu cheese really plays well off the earthy sweet taste of the baby beets. Such a simple dish to construct, yet the result is a delightful mix of flavors that, for my tastes, was on the addictive side of very tasty!
“I love keeping recipes simple and letting the main ingredient shine through,” Chef Andrew explained. “Beets are one of my favorite items to work with and the fall crop produces the best tasting beets of the year. I especially enjoy turning confirmed non-beet eaters into beet lovers!”
And I can attest first-hand to becoming a beet convert by this dish. Admittedly, this writer came to this recipe not being very partial to beets of any kind. However, Andrew’s recipe has made me a believer. In hindsight, I must chuckle remembering that first tentative tasting of this dish that produced what can only be described as a palate double-take! And while we are admitting things, that first tasting ended much too abruptly as I quickly tasted my way right through all four servings of the recipe in one sitting! In defense, salad portions are quite a bit smaller than your average main course servings and, after all, my palate had just discovered the delicious baby beet, so there was a making-up-for-lost-beet-time factor that should be considered. Simply delicious! Never thought I would ever “beet” that drum. So if you are a beet doubter, try this recipe.
Andrew’s dish is pretty straightforward to construct, though gloves and apron are essential for prepping the beets – even baby beets have an equal-opportunity staining policy just like the larger versions. I have since used Andrew’s very simple and extremely flavorful dressing on different kind of salads, heavily laden with fresh salmon and avocado, as well as repurposed the formula as a marinade for grilled fish – it’s a keeper condiment!
A few tips regarding the shaping of the cheese for plating. Obviously, if bleu cheese is chosen, then it must be in block form, not pre-crumbled. However, both cheese ingredient suggestions tend to be naturally crumbly so will need to be frozen solid first before trying to cut shapes. To have some flexibility in thickness, I removed the plastic roller from a wire cheese cutter, which gave me a cutting wire with a handle. Use this tool to make angled shapes of all kinds; then sandwich those finished shapes within two wax paper sheets on a flat tray and keep frozen until ready to plate. For circles, make little cheese balls using the palms of the hands, freeze and then slice cross-sections of each globe with the wire.
The same process can be done with a log of goat cheese. Both cheeses come back to room temperature almost immediately, which is why the second freeze treatment is necessary. It all sounds a little tedious, but the journey was a learning experience and became the fun part of making this recipe. Besides, if you are serving this dish to a group, the presentation really will evoke smiles around the table! So have some fun with it.
Chef Andrew Faulkner has been with Melissa’s for, in his words, “sixteen wonderful years.” After working at such acclaimed hotels as the Four Seasons and JW Marriott, Chef Andrew decided to join Melissa’s. He started out working with the company’s local supermarket accounts on merchandising opportunities, though before too long his professional kitchen experience helped Melissa’s improve its product development system as well as expand into new markets.
“With my culinary background we started Melissa’s test kitchen, something altogether new for a wholesale produce distributor,” the chef recalled. “I was very involved in both the design and construction of our 1900 square foot, state of the art kitchen from scratch. I also helped get the Melissa’s Foodservice business off and running; we now service restaurants, sports and entertainment centers and culinary professionals throughout the Southern California area as well as in Las Vegas. It has been fun and rewarding to watch this division grow into the success it is today.”
Currently, Chef Andrew is Corporate Chef / Consultant Liaison, for Melissa’s Food Service. “It is something special when a chef calls us to place an order and is speaking with another chef,” explained Andrew. In addition, Chef Andrew participates in various culinary and food service industry events as an ambassador for Melissa’s.
Outside of the office Chef Andrew enjoys getting outdoors with boating, sport fishing, traveling, and grilling on his own barby. Of course, indoors he can’t stay away from the kitchen too long with a special passion for cooking anything Italian. His salads can’t be beet either! Enjoy.
Three Beet Salad
1 bunch Melissa’s Baby Red Beets
1 bunch Melissa’s Baby Gold Beets
1 bunch Melissa’s Baby Candy Cane Beets
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Package of a favorite Spring Mix or Petite Lettuce Mix
Bleu Cheese or Goat Cheese, cut into quarter-size shapes of any kind, square, circles, triangles etc.
½ cup Lemon Olive Oil Extra Virgin
⅓ cup Rice Wine Vinegar
1 tablespoon Melissa’s Fresh Peeled Shallots
½ teaspoon Honey
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Wash and scrub beets, cut off the tops. Place the oiled beets on a sheet of foil and place another sheet on top and create a seal around the beet. Roast the beets in a baking pan until tender, 30 minutes to 45 minutes 375°.
Cool the beets in their foil packet for a few minutes, and then rub off the skins using a paring knife and gloves if needed. The beets need to still be a little warm to be able to remove the skins easily. After peeling, rinse thoroughly and place in the refrigerator to chill for about an hour.
Leave some beets whole, halve some and cube the others to give an abstract look.
Cut cheese into any desired shapes; the weirder the better.
Make the vinaigrette by stirring together the vinegar, honey, shallots, salt and sugar, and then slowly whisk in the lemon olive oil until emulsified.
- Add beets to a mixing bowl coat with the vinaigrette, tossing to coat completely.
- In a separate bowl, toss the salad greens with a very light coat of the vinaigrette.
- Arrange first the greens and then beets on the plate before sprinkling the cheese shapes over each serving
- Use any remaining vinaigrette to drizzle over each plate and serve.