Spinach Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Radishes, and Kumquat Vinaigrette

Holiday dinners around our house are often an expression of excess, as with most people.  For the past few years, our family has adopted a new tradition, where we cook the foods of another country for our Christmas dinner.  Sometimes it is foods they eat on Christmas, or other festival/ceremonial foods, or just something that sounds delicious.  In the past, we’ve done Spain (an assortment of tapas and a roasted leg of lamb), Portugal (Portuguese Fisherman [a dish of spicy sausage, onions, and peppers], and condensed-milk-free flan), Switzerland (traditional fondue), etc.

This year, exhausted from months of planning and executing my wedding, we opted for something a little bit more American-traditional.  No specific menu in mind, just good, solid, Fall-season celebration foods.  Not wanting to go overboard on fat and calories, I thought a good salad was in order.  Now, I should specify, I almost never really eat salad anymore.  I have generally limited myself to Caesar salad, chinese chicken salad, and any of a variety of chunkier vegetable salads, such as panzanella (Italian bread and tomato) or the like.  Then I discovered my love of beets, especially roasted beets, and my love of goat cheese, and dear goodness, my love of them together.  Amazing.  I know they do well in salad.  I just needed to find the right accompaniments.

A small bin of fresh kumquats at the grocery store pretty much sealed the deal for me.  I brought them home without an idea of what I would do with them (and still haven’t used most of them, so ideas are welcome), and finally pulverized them into a delicious, creamy vinaigrette for this salad.  All in all, I really thought it was pretty well-balanced.  If you like nuts in your salad, I could see a good walnut or almond being put to use here.  Other roasted and cooled vegetables might also be a good match – carrots, asparagus, etc.

Spinach Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Radishes, and Kumquat Vinaigrette (10 first-course servings)

Ingredients:

For Kumquat Vinaigrette:

  • 10 kumquats, quartered and seeded
  • 6 oz. rice vinegar
  • spoonful of sugar (yes, really, I didn’t measure), or to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • about 4 – 6 oz. olive oil, or to desired texture

For Roasted Beets:

  • 4 medium beets, each scrubbed under running water (no need to peel), and cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • salt and pepper

For Salad:

  • 16 oz. baby spinach leaves
  • bunch of radishes, thinly sliced
  • 8-16 oz. soft goat cheese (or other cheese of your liking)

Directions:

To Make Roasted Beets:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Take washed beet wedges and toss in a large bowl with olive oil and salt.
  3. Spread on a baking sheet, and cover with foil.
  4. Roast about 30 minutes, then remove foil and roast another 15-30 or until beets can be pierced easily with a fork.

To Make Kumquat Vinagrette:

  1. Blend kumquats and rice vinegar in a food processor, blender, or a cup with an immersion blender, until thoroughly combined.  While the blender is running, add in as much olive oil as you desire for your preferred dressing consistency, somewhere between a half cup and a cup.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and sugar.

To Assemble the Salad:

  1. Toss spinach leaves with vinaigrette until they are coated evenly.  Divide among salad bowls.
  2. Top each serving with 2-4 beet wedges, some of the radish slices, and about an ounce of the goat cheese, crumbled.
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