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)
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
- 16 oz. baby spinach leaves
- bunch of radishes, thinly sliced
- 8-16 oz. soft goat cheese (or other cheese of your liking)
To Make Roasted Beets:
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Take washed beet wedges and toss in a large bowl with olive oil and salt.
- Spread on a baking sheet, and cover with foil.
- 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:
- 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:
- Toss spinach leaves with vinaigrette until they are coated evenly. Divide among salad bowls.
- Top each serving with 2-4 beet wedges, some of the radish slices, and about an ounce of the goat cheese, crumbled.