There’s something to be said for classic combinations. Goat’s Cheese and Beetroots is one of them – regrettably underrepresented on the big stages of the food circus for years, lately I’ve been delighted to see more and more beety things appearing on menus. While I’ve always loved beets, goat’s cheese was an acquired taste. One specific pivotal moment almost closed the lid on the whole goat’s cheese thing for me, but in the end, while it made me tread more carefully around that cheesy matter, it not only made me really like the stuff but also brought on the answer to the “why” of cheese being so often combined with fruity or sweet things.
One fine day at my grandparent’s house, I snuck an unexpectedly „goaty“ slice – I could’ve sworn the slice bleated at me as I bit into it – of cheese off of a beautifully arranged cheese platter in my grandma’s fridge. Until that moment I had been under the impression that grapes, apples, pears and other such things are placed on cheese platters for purely cosmetic purposes. Close to loosing the battle against my gag reflex, I tried to dampen the sharp zing down with the next best thing in easy reach while not making my cheese burglary too obvious by digging into the arrangement of grapes and berries on the platter, a slice of beetroot. Well, whaddayaknow, now that turned the rather unpleasant cheese overdose into something else entirely! With lessons about sneaking cheese and the purpose of fruit on ponzy cheese arrangements thoroughly memorized, the combination of beets and goat’s cheese never left the foodie areas of my head. Trying to balance out the sweet roots and a relatively mild goat’s cheese we almost always have in the fridge, made me come up with this salad, combining a perfect, fruity match for the beets, blackberries, with a wonderful orange vinaigrette I often use when there’s cheese involved in salads.
Beetroot Carpaccio with Goat’s Cheese, Watercress, Pine Nuts and Orange Vinaigrette
For 2 servings you’ll need…
2 Large Beetroots, cooked and thinly sliced
200g Blackberries – double-check them for odd bits, sand and leaves, they’re good at hiding them
100g soft Goat’s Cheese, crumbled or cut into bite-sized pieces
2 Tbsp Pine Nuts, toasted and lightly salted
½ Bunch of Watercress, leaves only – if you’re having trouble getting your hands on these, sub them with a few small, mild leaves of arugula
First off, a few pointers on the beetroots:
• In our corner of the world, including a couple of our neighboring countries, beets are a common sight in the non-refrigerated area of the produce section in supermarkets, ready cooked, sealed in plastic and otherwise unaltered, simply cooked beets. I strongly recommend using those or cook them yourselves rather than using the glass preserves – those are preserved in vinegary liquids and do not taste like beets are supposed to taste anymore.
• If you’re going with fresh beets, remove the leaves and roots a couple of millimeters away from the bulb itsself – if you’d peel, prick or cut the bulb, it would bleed out in the water and leave you with a taste-free, spongy bulb and a ruined pot. Like with all root veggies, their exact cooking time depends on their size, ranging from 40-ish mins for the smaller specimen, to an hour for the larger ones. The average sized beet of around 5-6cm DIA takes around 40-45 mins to be delicious. Near the end of the guesstimated time, use a sharp skewer or thin blade to poke the bulb – if it goes in and out smoothly, the beets are done. Rinse them with cold water or, better yet, pop them into a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. Once they’re cooled off, peel and slice them.
Second order of business, the cheese:
If you don’t like goat’s cheese, mild or otherwise, use sheepsmilk feta instead. Other types of cheese don’t work too well in this combination since they’re either not zingy enough or pack too much of a punch. I think a really mild blue cheese might work, but since that’s the one type of cheese I can’t stomach as soon as I bite down on the „blue“ part of it, I can’t really tell.
On to the recipe! Not that it’s a particularly long one…
1) Thinly slice the beets into disks with a very sharp knife or mandoline.
2) Arrange the disks on your plates. As you can see in the pics, I had one portion done before I realized laying out dark purple disks on a black plate wasn’t the brightest idea of the day, given my photography setup was waiting for the plates – so I went avantgarde on the white plate for the second serving – the pretty colors kind of called for some extra attention anyways. Plus the girly girl in me wanted out~! Tee~hee
3) Depending on their size, cut the berries in halves or leave them whole, and set them onto the beet slices, bubbly surface facing up to catch more of the vinaigrette.
4) Distribute the cheese bits and dot the portions with the pine nuts.
5) Scatter the plates with the watercress leaves and set them aside for a bit.
The Orange Vinaigrette
½ Orange, Juice
1-2 Tsp White Balsamic Vinegar – check the acidity of the orange and blackberries to determine the amount you’ll need
Opt: Some honey in case both orange and blackberries are on the sour side of things
1 Tbsp Extra Vergine Olive Oil
1 small Shallot, very finely cubed
½ Tsp dried Rosemary
Salt, freshly cracked Black Pepper to taste
1) Add all of the ingredients, minus the honey, to a small mixing bowl and whisk them until they’re well combined.
2) Pick up a slice of beet and a blackberry and dip them into the dressing before having a taste.
3) Adjust the seasoning according to the levels of acidity in the ingredients, if the berries and orange are too sour, add the honey, if their combined sweetness is too much to call the dish a salad, add more vinegar or some lemon juice.
4) Drizzle the carpaccio with the vinaigrette and serve.
5) Just on a side note, in case you’re prepping this in advance or for a larger crowd, keep the watercress, the pine nuts and the cheese off the plates until just before you’re serving the carpaccio. That way, the juices of the beets and the berries merge with the vinaigrette while the cheese, nuts and leaves don’t turn soggy in the meantime.