Posted by: njbrown | March 21, 2011

Alice Waters’ and Julia’s Beet, Orange and “Rocket” Salad

Alice Waters and Julia's Beet, Orange and "Rocket" Salad

In Julie and Julia, Julie Powell laments that all her cooking has resulted in a weight gain.  While I’m not working my way through Mastering, my husband and I are seeing the effects of too many dessert recipes for this blog.  I have always preferred dessert to any other part of the meal, so given a choice of vegetables or chocolate, chocolate always wins.  However, I’m going to try to broaden out (no pun intended) to other kinds of recipes until we get back in shape.

One of the Julia series that I never saw was Julia Child Lessons With Master Chefs.  In looking at the PBS site, I saw that Alice Waters was one of the master chefs that Julia had featured.  Somehow, I had missed Alice’s ascendency to fame at Chez Panisse, but in watching many hours of food shows in the last few years, I have heard her referred to many times and with great reverence.

This is what PBS says about her:

“In 1971, long before many Americans had developed a taste for spicy arugula greens and earthy chanterelle mushrooms, Alice Waters opened her revolutionary restaurant Chez Panisse committed to menus that celebrate the best tasting, finest-quality, and sometimes, most exotic products found each season.  Falling in love with farmer’s markets while visiting France, Alice’s modest training began when she experimented in her own kitchen with the fresh flavours of just-picked organic produce.  Back in the States, Alice found few sources for the high-grade ingredients to which she had become accustomed, so she worked with farmers, ranchers and fishermen to forage for the best they could provide.  The world became her market.  Named “Best Chef in America” in 1992 by the James Beard Foundation, she and her cookbooks, the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook and Chez Panisse Vegetables continue to earn supreme praise.”

It sounds like the current trend to FOSL (fresh, organic, sustainable and local) can be traced back at least in part to Alice.  In replicating Alice’s dish, I have used regular oranges (that she says is permissible) as I am put off by the name of blood oranges.  Also, I have used orange supremes rather than cutting circular slices, both for ease of eating and for more visual variety.  After hearing Jamie Oliver referring to “rocket” many times, I now know he’s talking about arugula.  I think this is a lovely salad with gentle but very harmonious flavors.

Beet, Blood Orange, Walnut, and Rocket Salad

Ingredients for 6 Servings:

For the Beets:
2 1/2 pounds fresh beets
1 cup water
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Vinaigrette Dressing:
3 blood oranges (or regular oranges)
1 large shallot
1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar
1/2 cup excellent extra virgin olive oil

For Serving:
2 bunches rocket (arugula), washed and dried
1/2 cup walnut halves (toasted at 325 F for 8 to 10 minutes)

Special Equipment Suggested:
An 8- by 10-inch baking dish
A small-holed grater
A juicer
A serving platter

Preparing the Beets – 1 hour:
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Wash the beets and cut away the tops and tails.
Place in the baking dish, pour in water, and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (or longer), until the beets are tender enough to be pierced easily with a toothpick or small knife.
Remove foil, let the beets cool, and then peel them over the sink (their skins will rub off easily).
Slice the beets thin; season with salt and pepper.

Preparing the Oranges:
Grate the zest (orange part of peel) of 1 orange into a small bowl, being careful not to include any white pith.
Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice from one half into the grated zest (set the second half aside in case you need it later).
From both ends of the 2 remaining oranges, cut slices deep enough to expose the flesh.
Stand each orange on end and neatly slice off strips of skin and pith, from top to bottom, all around, to expose the naked flesh.
Cut oranges into thin slices and set aside for the salad.

The Vinaigrette:
Peel the shallot, cut into fine dice, and stir at once into the orange juice and zest.
Add salt. Whisk the vinegar and then the oil into the bowl.
Taste carefully and determine if more oil or vinegar is needed, or juice from the reserved orange half.
The sauce should be on the acidic side, to balance the sweetness of the oranges and beets.

Arrange the rocket on the platter.
Spoon a few tablespoons of vinaigrette over the beets, toss to coat evenly, and then place artfully on the rocket.
Lay orange slices around the platter and scatter walnuts over the top.
Spoon on enough vinaigrette to coat the salad.
Serve immediately.



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