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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Roasted beets pair exquisitely with the subtle tang of goat cheese. I first fell in love with this combination while dining al fresco in Napa Valley, but have since tried it just about anywhere they serve it, including at Crofton on Wells in Chicago and Quince in Evanston. So I decided to prepare some version of this favorite and submit it as my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging #97, hosted this week by Real Epicurean. This recipe takes a classic salad combination—roasted beets and goat cheese—that I adore and presents it as bruschetta. I find this unconventional presentation intuitively pleasing, but it is also practical for those traveling gourmands looking for a delectable picnic item. The combination of vinegars draws out the earthiness in the beets while the inclusion of edible dandelion leaves compliments the sweetness of the roasted beets. Read on for the recipe and a fascinating inside scoop on edible dandelion leaves.

About Dandelion...

I have to say that when I began researching edible dandelion for this post, I was under the same misconceptions that most people share: dandelions are a common nuisance, certainly not to be celebrated as gourmet. Yet the story of the dandelion is really the story of a miraculous plant that grows heartily with little assistance, and labors under-appreciated right under our noses. The leaves can be cooked as any other nutritious leafy vegetable. The flowers are also edible and may be prepared similarly to zucchini flowers which have recently attained haute cuisine status. The roots may also be eaten, and are renown for their medicinal properties.

New York naturalist Steve Bill, known for tours foraging for edibles in Central Park, notes, "The leaves are more nutritious than anything you can buy. They're higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium content is phenomenal, greater than spinach. You also get vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc by using a tasty, free vegetable that grows on virtually every lawn."

Bill recommends collecting dandelion leaves in early spring before the plants flower, when leaves are tender and tasty. Another good time to harvest is late fall after a first frost when the leaves have lost their bitterness, which is a protective adaptation for the plant against predators (like us). If you have several to select from, plants with broad leaves and large roots in rich, damp soil are superior for taste.

Dandelion leaves have a characteristic earthy bitterness that may remind you of chicory or endive. Our modern sugar-rich diets have made us unaccustomed to bitterness, although several ancient diets respect bitterness as one of the core human tastes along with sweetness and saltiness. The greens are excellent crisp in a salad, or may be sauteed or steamed as you would spinach. To cut down on the bitterness, consider pairing with sweeter vegetables, such as the beets in this recipe. If you prefer a less bitter taste, you can also boil the leaves, like other leafy vegetables, in one or two changes of water.

Normally I close out this "food review" section with recommendations for cultivating, but I'm guessing most of you already know more than you care to about home cultivation of dandelions.If you have ever cursed the dandelion while striving for a perfectly manicured lawn, you can curse more than the fates. Dandelions were introduced intentionally into the Midwest to help provide food for imported honeybees in the early spring when other sources of pollen were scarce. A word of caution however: if you use chemicals on your lawn at home you should not consume those dandelions. If you want to raise edible dandelions, consider transplanting some existing roots or plants into a protected garden area.

Source:Wild Man Steve Brill


1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Muscat vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1-1.5 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp toasted walnut oil
½ tsp caraway seeds
1.5 tsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2-2.5 cups diced roasted beets
¼-1/3 C finely chopped dandelion leaves
2 ounces soft goat cheese

There are a surprising variety of thoughts on how best to roast a beet. I cut the bottoms off and place in a 8 x8 roasting pan with ½ inch of water. I cover the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 40-60 minutes, until the beets are easily pierced with the tine of a fork, but not soft. Conventional wisdom says that when beets are well roasted they will slip easily out of their skins after roasting. I often like to stop roasting before they are soft enough to do this, and find it quite reasonable to just skin them with a vegetable peeler the old fashioned way.

Combine vinegars, oil, caraway seeds. Chop parsley and dandelion leaves, add to vinaigrette. Add roughly diced roasted beets. Toss to coat.

Serve on sliced baguette spread with soft goat cheese.

Substitutions: If you do not have specialty vinegars in your house, substitute red wine vinegar for the Muscat vinegar. If you don’t have red wine vinegar, substitute another teaspoon of white wine vinegar.

24 appetizer servings, approximately 1-1.5 Tbsp each. Nutritional information (topping only) per serving: 18 calories, 0.9 g fat, 19 mg sodium, 0 g fiber

If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also enjoy Asparagus and Blue Cheese Bruschetta, which is a novel combination of big flavors.

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Scott at Real Epicurean said...

I'm happy with this one. The best recipe I've seen all week in many ways. Complexity isn't always necessary, just a perfect combination of simple ingredients. Well done!

Kalyn Denny said...

It does sound so good. I also love the sound of Asparagus and Blue cheese Bruschetta. I agree with Scott, just good combinations.

Pille said...

I discovered dandelion leaves earlier this summer, and made salad with them, too. Beautiful presentation!!

Erin said...

Thanks all! The experimentation with bruschetta really turned out to be a great success, and all three of these recipe creations will become regulars in my line up of appetizers. Kalyn, please do let me know if you decide to make the asparagus and blue cheese, either as a salad or bruschetta. If you get the flavors to balance just right it is really divine.

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