Roasted Beet and Beluga Lentil Salad in Savoy Cabbage Bowls
One of the most fun and exciting things about food is its evolutionary nature. We eat at a restaurant, and will later at home recreate a component of the meal with our own slant, substituting an ingredient for one in our own pantry, for example. We read cookbooks, food magazines and blogs, blogs, blogs and assimilate all those concepts into something unique without really knowing from where it came. The seasons change one into another and a house standard dish morphs to accommodate what is at market. Viola! A familiar yet new dish is served. The same, but different.
Beets Ready for Roasting
The evolutionary starting point for this salad is from Tim Mazurek over at Lottie + Doof. There's just something about his way that has worked itself under my skin, from his amazingly cool home, to his beautifully photographed food posts. Tim's essence is clean and well-edited yet organically warm; a very in-the-moment way of uniting fresh and new with a reflective regard for the past. His blog points toward this in many ways, even that he named it Lottie + Doof. Not to sound like a total teen idol groupie (I do believe I'm old enough to be his mother), but Tim's got it going on. Like his pretty, earthy beet and wheat berry salad.
Everything but the Beets
For our house version, I subbed Beluga lentils (named for their resemblance to the caviar) for the wheat berries. This evolution was nudged along because I recently wheat-berried us out with this salad and the ensuing leftover grains served with berries, yogurt and honey for breakfast a couple of mornings thereafter. We needed a change, and I knew that the sweet earthiness of the beet would marry nicely with the loamy earthiness of the lentil. A combination not unlike flavors found in Pinot Noir, I think.
Oregano Vinaigrette in Jar
For the dressing, I followed Tim's suggestion straight on, using oregano from the herb pot by our back door.
Having no arugula in the house meant that the crisp head of Savoy cabbage I hadn't been able to resist would find a nice use. The beet-wheat berry mixture nestled itself into the bowl of one of its leaves for each individual serving. The beets I had were deep red, not the citrine and carnelian colored ones that Tim used. His are prettier. And, one last evolution... I was out of feta, but had a ton of cotija; similar, but with a little more saltiness and pure cow's milk flavor.
Here's my riff of Tim's idea written out, along with some personal notes. Please do visit his site for his original guideline. If you don't know him already I'm honored to make the introduction.
Roasted Beet Salad with Wheat Berries, Savoy Cabbage and Cotija
1 shallot, finely minced
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey (Tim's recipe asks for less, but my cabbage was more bitter than spicy arugula usually is)
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup tasty olive oil
Put all ingredients in a jar and shake. Allow flavors to merge before serving.
Several leaves Savoy cabbage
2-3 medium beets, roasted, peeled, and chopped***
2 cups cooked Beluga lentils**
1/2 cup crumbled or shredded cotija cheese
Fresh oregano, chopped, for garnish
*** To roast beets, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place whole washed beets (unpeeled--roasting makes quick work of this job, as the peels of cooked and slightly cooled beets slip themselves right off) on a large sheet of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and seal edges of foil well. Bake until center of beets yield easily to a knife, about 50 minutes or so. With rare exception, this is my primary method for cooking beets. It's efficient, simple and tidy.
**To cook Beluga lentils, place one cup uncooked lentils in saucepan with 2 1/2 cups water and a healthy pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain any residual water off.
Mix lentils and most of the vinaigrette together. (I believe this tastes better when allowed to stand 20 minutes or so.) Layer a spoonful of lentils, diced beet and cotija in cabbage leaf. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette if desired. Garnish with oregano.