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Beet Napoleons with Garlicky Balsamic Vinaigrette make for an elegant salad or appetizer, and a clever recipe for using the beets and greens you receive in your CSA box.
I used to shudder any time I received beets in my community-supported agriculture box, but no longer given this clever recipe for Beet Napoleons with Garlicky Balsamic Vinaigrette. Why beets? I guess I just didn't really like them any way I'd ever had them served to me. In fact, there were many veges and fruits that made me feel like my CSA was a chore rather than a bounty. Kohlrabi, bunches of radishes, okra, and cowpeas to name just a few. It was the year I moved to Charleston that I signed up for a CSA, anticipating all of the fresh goodness I would have to work with. But instead of the tomatoes and zucchini and lettuces I was expecting, I ended up with a whole bunch of vegetables I was entirely unfamiliar with. And this, from a gal who grew up on a farm!
After educating myself as to what many of these were, I educated myself on how to prepare or preserve them. In the process, I found out that I really like beets. Oddly enough, the simpler way of preparing them is the tastiest, roasting. Beet Napoleons with Garlicky Balsamic Vinaigrette evolved from the need for a main dish salad that was 'pretty' enough to serve to lunching ladies at a church gathering. They are easy to assemble despite the 'tower,' and relatively inexpensive to make for a crowd.
Layers of sweet roasted red and golden beets are paired with tangy herbed goat cheese, and drizzled with a creamy vinaigrette made with garlic, Dijon, honey and Balsamic...now this is flavor profiling.
To stoop and call this a salad bugs me, but hey...it's a salad. In fact, this can be a salad, plated as we normally would (greens and beets scattered with goat cheese, and dressing on top). I wanted our 'ladies who lunch' to feel like our church repast was a bit more special though. It's funny what plating something just a tad different does for the overall feel of a luncheon. I asked for everybody assigned to kitchen duty to dig out their tallest and widest biscuit cutters and bring them to the church. Sounds covert, right?? Now, one thing those of you NOT from the South need to know about Southern women and biscuit cutters is that we all have them. Every one of us, kinda like pearl necklaces and flip flops.
Working with fresh food is a Blessing. To know how hard our local farm families work their land, makes each bright varietal we receive in our CSA boxes all the more special.
After we got done with the business of sorting the biscuit cutters from those that would work versus those which would not (it's all in the height), we then tagged the cutters with names so none would go home with the wrong person in the end. With ovens fired up, a posse of volunteers from our Women's Auxiliary scrubbed nearly 400 beets clean and began the roasting process. In under an hour, our Parish House smelled kind of like a pickle factory. Each of us remembered that smell from the days when our moms and grandmas would boil and can the beets. You never forget it.
Sharing a CSA box, community-supported agriculture, with a neighbor or friend reduces the cost of the box per household. It also broadens the preparation possibilities and supports our farmers while keeping a small footprint.
Beet Napoleons with Garlicky Balsamic Vinaigrette put glamour atop a china plate. This little stack of sweet and savory makes great use of minimal ingredients. If you have a presentation cooking ring with a press, your life will be easy. If however all you have is a biscuit cutter and a soup spoon, your life will be equally as easy. The beets are roasted in the oven whole with only olive oil and Kosher salt. The skins will come off easily if they are peeled while still warm. I choose red beets and golden beets because I love the presentation. I rough peel and then dice my beets to leave them a bit rustic.
Work atop waxed paper while assembling to avoid marking your china plates with beet juice before you finish. The waxed paper can be gently slid from beneath once the assembly is complete. The goat cheese need only be slightly colder than room temperature. Just cold enough to be easily spooned and pressed into your base layer of beets. Purchase goat cheese that is already flavored with herbs, honey or even truffle. If however you have plain and want to add your own herbs, try minced tarragon which is phenomenal with beets. A quick second layer of beets and then a top-off of frisée, and you are ready to dress with a sweet and tangy vinaigrette you will find yourself making again and again.
Did you know that it’s super easy to print out a version of a half recipe or even a double recipe on Not Entirely Average? Hover over the serving size (highlighted in blue, it says 24 on this recipe) and then slide the the white line to the left to make less or to the right to make more. This "calculator" allows you to play until you get the number of servings you want. Easy.
For the Beet Napoleons
- 1 pound red and golden beets left whole, scrubbed clean and dried
- 6 ounce package herbed or honeyed goat cheese
- many small frisée or mâche leaves
- 3 tablespoons quality olive oil
- good pinch Kosher salt
For the Garlicky Balsamic Vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons raw honey
- 1 tablespoon Dijon
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1/4 cup quality Balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup quality olive oil
Preparing the Vinaigrette
- In a blender or mini chef prep food processor, add the honey, Dijon, salt and freshly cracked pepper, the garlic clove, Balsamic vinegar, and the olive oil. Process for 1 minute until smooth and emulsified. Process for 30 seconds more just before drizzling over Napoleons.
Roasting the Beets
* you will be assembling the Napoleons on the plates you will be serving from, so be sure to have waxed paper or parchment on hand before beginning
* you will need a 3 1/4 inch or wider x 1 1/2 inch or higher stainless steel presentation cooking ring or biscuit cutter to achieve the 'tower'
* using latex dish gloves to 'peel' the beets after roasting will prevent your fingertips from staining
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut two (2) 6 inch squares of waxed paper or parchment and place atop your plates. Place the presentation ring or biscuit cutter in the center of the waxed paper and set aside. If you only have one ring or cutter, you will need to prepare each Napoleon separately.
- Trim the beets to about 1 inch of the greens. Toss whole, in a large bowl with olive oil and a good pinch of Kosher salt. Turn out onto a large sheet of aluminum foil. Draw the foil in to create a pouch and seal it. If using more than one color of beet, roast the colors separately in different aluminum baking pouches so the colors do not bleed together during roasting.
- Roast the beets in the pouches on a baking sheet for 1 hour, or until a knife is easily inserted into the biggest beets.
- Allow beets to cool for only 15 minutes before 'peeling.' The skins will come off easily while the beets are still somewhat warm, so latex dish gloves help in this step. The skins should easily peel away with gentle rubbing. A knife may also be used if preferred. If using different color beets, peel the darkest beets last. It's okay if all of the skins do not come off, but try to get most of the skins. Discard the beet tops.
- Rough chop the beets into a 1/4 to 1/2 inch dice. Keep different colors separate, and rinse your knife in between colors.
To Assemble the Napoleons
- Working inside the presentation ring or biscuit cutter, begin the base layer of beets.
- Scatter and press in gently so as to fill all edges and gaps, the base layer of beets. You may need to use a small spoon to get the pieces where you want them - it's a process. Build your base layer to about 1/2 to 3/4 inches tall.
- Using a clean small spoon, drop half of the goat cheese in small dollops atop the base layer of beets, filling all of the gaps and spaces. Using the back of that spoon or your fingers, gently press the goat cheese into the base layer. Do not pack the cheese down hard, rather press down but do so loosely. Only the outside of this cheese layer will be seen once assembled so no need to smooth it out.
- Follow with the last layer of beets, again being sure to fill fill all edges and gaps. Again, only the outside of this beet layer will be seen once assembled so do not be concerned that the pieces are uneven on the top.
- Gently pull the waxed paper from beneath the Napoleon. Discard the waxed paper.
* if using a presentation ring, use the food press included with the ring to push the Napoleon down while you lift the ring up and off the Napoleon.
* if using a biscuit cutter, use the back of a wide spoon to push the Napoleon down while you lift the ring up and off of the Napoleon.
- Once both Napoleons are assembled, add 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette to the top of each, allowing the dressing to spill down and fill and flavor any interior nooks and crannies.
- Highlight the top with beautiful frisée or mâche leaves and additional vinaigrette spooned over the greens and drizzled down the sides of the Napoleon.
- Serve with soft warmed yeast rolls and softened assorted compound butters.