A chopped salad is hardly ever inspiring. It can be tasty at times, there's no doubt, but as far as salads go, it's sort of a non-salad-eaters salad. It's barely healthy, and is usually made of limp and processed meats and cheeses, which brings it closer in classification to a hoagie than a salad.
I've made a recent resolution to fill my life with salads - new salads, full of ingredients I don't often eat, like beets, endive, or radicchio - topped with different cheeses, and exciting new dressings. So far, this resolution has been easier to keep than most - summer just begs for quick meals that leave you feeling light and refreshed. I've been on a goat cheese bender recently too, so most of my salads end up with a good bit of creamy cheese sprinkled over the top, which makes any salad worth eating.
So, in the spirit of my new resolution, a few nights ago, I made the Chopped Salad with Beets, Beans, Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese, out of last month's Food and Wine. The recipe appeared in a wonderful article called "The Feel-Good Kitchen", about a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, called, not surprisingly, "The Kitchen". I must mention that I read this article about 3 times, in some sort of effort to transport myself back to my former stomping grounds. I lived in Boulder for 5 years during college, and leaving that beautiful "bubble" has left me aching for it ever since. I love where I am, and Dustin and I's life in North Carolina, but I have a special place in my heart for Colorado, and the West in general. I miss it terribly.
In homage to that town that I loved so dearly, I prepared the ingredients for this salad with extra attention - lining them up on my cutting board in neat little piles, and stopping to admire their beauty along the way. The salad was a deliciously different take on the Chop Salad we all know. Far more sophisticated, with it's tangy goat cheese, earthy beets, and crunchy hazelnuts. The dressing is light and slightly sweet from the honey, and makes a nice pairing with the straightforward taste of all those wonderful veggies. And as a bonus, the leftover dressing at the bottom of the bowl is the most beautiful pink color - Dustin and I had it all over the ends of our noses as we slurped out every last drop.
Chopped Salad with Beets, Beans, Hazelnuts, and Goat Cheese
Food and Wine, "The Feel-Good Kitchen", from The Kitchen
1 large beet (6 ounces), quartered
1/4 cup skinned hazelnuts
1/4 pound green beans
2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound mixed salad greens, such as baby romaine, butter lettuce, radicchio and endives, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced (substituted cucumber, since I was out of carrot)
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 plum tomato, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
2 1/2 ounces soft, fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 375°. Place the beet in a small baking dish with 1/4 cup of water. Cover with foil and roast the beet for 45 minutes, until tender. Let cool slightly, then peel and finely dice.
In the meantime, spread the hazelnuts in a pie plate and toast them for about 10 minutes, until they are golden. Let cool, then coarsely chop the nuts.
Blanch the green beans until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and cool under running water. Pat the beans dry and cut into 1-inch pieces.
In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt with the lemon juice, honey and olive oil and season the dressing with salt and pepper. Add the diced beet, hazelnuts, green beans, salad greens, carrot, celery, tomato, mint and goat cheese and toss gently. Serve the salad right away.
Serves 4 - 6