I was catching up on my New Yorkers from the past few weeks, and after reading - rather enviously - about Calvin Trillin's trip to New Orleans to eat at Mosca's several nights in a row, I came across Jane Kramer's piece on root vegetables. I've always had a thing for them frankly, especially in cooler months, and primarily after a nice, long roast in the oven. There is something magical that occurs, when gnarly carrots, parsnips and beets are subjected to prolonged exposure in a high heat environment, transforming them into beautiful, slightly-sweet vegetables. Inspired, I reached for a large bag of beets I had purchased a few days ago on impulse at Whole Paycheck (the nice thing about an impulse beet buy is that they're not going to go bad on you anytime soon) and started strategizing.
The easiest part is really the roasting. I simply washed off the (hard, 12" as opposed to the Chicago, soft 16") softball-sized reds and baseball-sized goldens, placing them on a tinfoil-lined baking sheet with raised edges. I then gave them a liberal shower of olive oil, so the kosher salt and pepper would stick easily. Off they went into a 400-degree oven for an hour, while I cobbled together the rest of my salad.
I chopped some fresh thyme and cut up an orange into supremes, which is really easier than you think, and gives the salad an elegant, Daniel Boulud-esque touch. Finally, I dug out some fresh goat cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm (near Champaign), but obviously, any fresh, young chèvre will do.
After about an hour, I turned off the oven, and let the beets sit there a bit longer, while I went outside to shovel off my deck. When I came back, they were beginning to cool, and I peeled off the tough, outer skin with a paring knife, then cut the beets into manageable cubes/triangles/trapezoids. I tossed them with more salt and pepper, plus a really good olive oil; I threw in the oranges, placed a few dollops of cheese over it, and then sprinkled the entire bowl with the chopped thyme. Outside of the time it took to roast the beets, I spent maybe 15 - 20 minutes getting this assembled. If I had more time - and a bigger budget - I might have thrown in some chopped pistachios, or maybe added a little blood orange oil to it, but honestly, it was a weeknight, and I was just too tired to bother.