Small and tender beets fresh from my garden are a treat. I like to store some away in the cellar for use in winter, but thinning the row to allow other beets to fill out means having beets about 1 inch in diameter to use plentifully. I usually cook them until their skins slip off. I serve in a salad or all by themselves on a bed of lettuce or arugula or mixed greens including the tenderest of the beet tops.
The dressing makes all the difference in how this dish comes out. My island neighbor, Cynthia Hanson, told me about a beet salad with orange vinaigrette that she likes to make. That inspired me to do a little fiddling around to see what I could come up with.
I wanted something simple. Something with five to six ingredients to make ahead and have enough left over for use elsewhere. One of my old Silver Palate cookbooks came to the rescue with a lemon vinaigrette. I thought, why not substitute orange juice for lemon juice? You are thinking, yeah, but lemon is tangy and orange juice is sweet. Right. I thought so, too. But that is why we have vinegar.
I remember years and years ago making a rice salad with orange vinaigrette. Also, lots of carrot recipes suggest using orange with them. So now I can put together a cold beet salad with my orange vinaigrette, and then when I thin my carrots, I can cook them up and dump the vinaigrette on them, too. And I will make a rice salad before too long, and use you-know-what for the dressing on that. If you don’t want so much dressing, halve the recipe.
Makes 2 cups of dressing
⅔ cup orange juice
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons rice or malt vinegar
1 shallot finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk together the juice, oil, mustard, vinegar. Add the shallot and salt and pepper to taste.