Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Salad #6: Beet and Carrot Slaw

I have always loathed beets. They taste like dirt. Don't tell me how sweet they are. Sweet dirt is still dirt.
Who wouldn't want to cook with these?
But I want to like beets. They're cheap, they're nutritious, and they're so pretty. 

So every couple of years I try a new beet recipe, hoping that maybe there is a preparation that doesn't make me think of potting soil. 

Over the years, I have made boiled beets, roasted beets, pickled beets, beet salads, beet tarts with goat cheese (a particularly pretty recipe) and the only person to benefit from all this cooking has been my mother, the only member of my family who actually likes beets. 

This year, looking at the beets in the market, it occurred to me that I had never tried them raw.  It's not a totally crazy idea. Cooking can alter the taste of an ingredient a great deal. And judging from the internet (my Google search returned 719,000 results in 0.66 seconds) raw beet salads are popular. 

I read a lot of recipes, decided on an Asian version with lime and ginger, then realized that I had no lime juice and my ginger was moldy. So I winged it. 

I made a julienne of beets and carrots. And a fairly classic French vinaigrette: olive oil, salt, lemon juice and Dijon mustard, heavy on the mustard. Beets and carrots are both sweet, and I wanted a really zippy dressing to contrast that.

Not bad, and aren't the colors great?
And you know what? It's actually pretty good. Not my favorite salad ever, but it's got good crunch, the earthiness is not as overwhelming as with cooked beets and the assertive dressing tamps down the sweetness.  Plus, it really makes for an attractive plate. Nothing like a bright splash of magenta and orange to wake you up.

Beet and Carrot Slaw 
serves 4-6 people as a side

1 large beet (about 3/4 pound)
1 large carrot
Chopped parsley (optional)

Juice of 1 lemon (about a tablespoon)
large spoonful of Dijon mustard ( I used Grey Poupon)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt to taste

Shred or julienne the beet and carrots. If you want a softer salad, shred the vegetables. If you want a crisper bite, julienne them. Either way, a food processor or mandolin really come in handy here.

Mix up the dressing, and feel free to tinker with the amounts. I made it up as went along. Just make sure it's a fairly assertive dressing. I liked my initial dressing, but after I tried it on the beets I decided that it needed more mustard. It all comes down to your taste buds.


  • This salad would be a great time to use a mandolin. I didn't and my julienne is more like french fries. 
  • Also, beets stain like crazy, so wear an apron and gloves. Either that or be prepared for a lot of "red-handed" jokes.
  • And because beets stain everything they touch, leave the parsley (if you are using it) off until the last minute. The parsley takes on the red and begins to look brown, not a good look for a salad.

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