Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Monday, July 18, 2005

Not the same old beet and goat cheese salad

Salad of lentils, greens, beets, carrots, onions, and yes, goat cheese

There are some dishes or food combinations we all encounter just a little too often for our taste. For me these are 1) any salad with apples/pears, walnuts/pecans, and some sort of cheese (a salad of this sort appears in virtually every issue of Martha Stewart Living) 2) hummus with baby carrots at parties 3) those mixed pastries trays with the mini tarts and eclairs, rainbow petit fours, and mint brownies -- common at office lunches and never as tasty as they promise to be 4) asparagus any time of the year other than spring and 5) the beet and goat cheese salad.

All right, #4 isn't a food combination. It's just a random pet peeve. But back to the beet and goat cheese salad. Let me be clear: this is a perfectly good salad and if I know you and you have recently made this salad, I still love you and do NOT think less of you. But I've been sick of it since 1998 and I'm never excited to see it at a pot luck or dinner party. There. Please forgive me.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself making a beet and goat cheese salad this evening. It all started innocently enough. I was making Michael Romano's (of Union Square Cafe) goat cheese, lentil, and vegetable salad from The Greenmarket Cookbook. You cook up some lentils and set them aside. Then you boil some beets and haricort verts and set them aside. The food cult didn't have haricort vert so I got a bunch of carrots. Then you puree some goat cheese with herbs (I used tarragon, chives, and thyme) and a little lemon juice and salt. I julienned the beets and cut the carrots into circles after I cooked them. I also threw in the penultimate spring onion (one more to go!).

And then you do this fancy plating bit. You make a bed of frissee, only I used mixed greens. Then you layer on the vegetable mixture. Then you layer on the lentil mixture. And at this point it reminded me a lot of taco salad, but don't tell Michael that. Since this was the main (only) dish I made thick layers of these ingredients. Then you're supposed to apply the goat cheese mixture through a ring, only I don't have one of those. Instead I used a star cookie cutter. It was real pretty and I wouldn't be surprised if it caught on in restaurants ALL OVER MANHATTAN. If you are Michael you drizzle a lovely walnut oil and raspberry vinaigrette on the greens, vegetables, and lentils. But since I'm not I drizzled My Usual Dressing "#1.

And it was at THIS point that I realized I had made that damn beet and goat cheese salad. Undaunted, I sallied forth, hopeful that there was enough other stuff to revitalize the salad sufficiently. And I was rewarded. The lentils are like a fresh, new lead character in a tired old sitcom, and the herbed goat cheese is like a new head writer. Ok, that doesn't really make sense. But the point is, I enjoyed the outcome.

Lane walked into the kitchen and said "Wow!" Which is, of course, the desired effect when one bothers to plate a meal. We went on to have a lovely, civilized meal up on our roof deck when Jasper took over and demanded to be put to bed IMMEDIATELY. He got up a little on the early side this morning and took a short nap so it's not surprising. Just irritating, since I'd only got about a quarter of the way through my nice salad. I know, someday I'll long for the days when he actually wants to go to bed.

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