Add some rosemary, lemon, and garlic marinated mushrooms, and you have a flavorful fall lunch using seasonal beets three ways.
It is the season of color. The leaves are turning quickly, and the hillsides are vibrant yellow and orange and red, with evergreen thrown in for contrast. The same colors are in abundance in our gardens and farm stands, with produce that makes the eyes water in their vibrancy.
We’re retreating from the summer treasures of zucchini and green beans, to the winter keepers: pumpkins, turnips, rutabagas, beets, carrots, daikon radishes, and winter squash in dazzling colors. The hardy greens of kale and spinach and collards are even sweeter after the cold dips, and we spy the first cranberries and pomegranates with their hidden gems, waiting patiently for the holidays.
Although our minds might veer toward hearty soups and stews, salads also shift with the turning of the wheel of the year. This dish is really a beet salad, all prettied up and served with a bowl of marinated mushrooms and walnuts. You can add a protein to it and call it dinner, anything from tofu, to shrimp, or even soft-boiled eggs.
A basket of possibilities
I used fingerling potatoes, a beautiful orange carrot, a purple daikon radish, and dark green sweet baby spinach as back-up to the beets. Substitute any number of other autumn vegetables here: parsnips, onions or leeks, turnip, or cubed butternut squash.
But beets are the star, and I wanted to use a few techniques with them. I used a golden beet which I shredded for the quick pickle, a dark red beet, roasted, and two small Chioggia candy striped beets, I steamed lightly to preserve their pretty color.
The maple poppyseed dressing is sweet, and offsets the earthiness of the beets and other root vegetables nicely. Use dark amber maple syrup for the best flavor, and, of course, only real maple syrup here, no artificial pancake substitute.
Eat with your eyes first!
Arrange the various veggies on a huge platter in color blocks for a beautiful presentation that wakes up the appetite. People can grab what they want from the platter, and dress their own – everyone is happy and has it their way.
Autumn Salad with Maple Poppyseed Dressing and Marinated Mushrooms
Three to four beets, red and yellow
1 large carrot
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Daikon radish
Dozen fingerling potatoes
1 large bunch spinach or kale
Toasted pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, etc.
Salt and pepper
Maple Poppy Seed Dressing, below
Marinated Rosemary and Pink Peppercorn Mushrooms, below
Preheat oven to 450 and place a sturdy rimmed baking sheet to heat up.
When the oven is hot, remove the pan and drizzle with olive oil. Add the dark red beets (unpeeled, cut in half) and the carrot and roast for 20 minutes.
The carrot should be done at this point, as well as any smaller beets. If your beets are large and not tender, put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes.
While the veggies were roasting, I quickly steamed the candy striped beets to preserve their color as much as possible, and because I wanted them to be a little more firm than the roasted beets for a contrast of texture.
Let the veggies cool, peel the beets if you like (I don’t bother) then cut into small cubes or slices, whatever your preference.
Shred the golden beet and place in a small bowl. Add 2 tbsp. cider vinegar, a little water, and salt and pepper. Set aside to make a quick pickle. Add the acid immediately after shredding or you will have a disgusting pile of ugly grey shreds (ask me how I know this…).
Line a large platter with spinach or kale, whatever is nicest at your market. Arrange the vegetables in any way you like, composed in little pockets, or strewn about – it’s all up to you!
Sprinkle with the pumpkin for squash seeds, and serve with the marinated mushrooms, below, passing the poppyseed dressing.
Maple Poppyseed Dressing
This is sweet and tangy, and goes great with the earthy flavors in a root salad.
In a jar, combine and shake together vigorously:
½ cup fruity, extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 tsp. grainy Dijon mustard
4 tsp. dark amber maple syrup
2 tsp. poppy seeds
Salt and pepper
Marinated Rosemary and Pink Peppercorn Mushrooms
These mushrooms are delicious hot or at room temperature. I could eat a bowl of them myself! Here I used oyster, shiitake, and crimini, but use whatever you like or can find. One of my favorite flavor combinations – garlic, rosemary, and lemon – are enhanced with the pink peppercorns and honey. If you want more of a zip, add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
1/3 cup walnut pieces
¼ cup olive oil
12 ounces mixed mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp. finely minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp. crush pink peppercorns, crushed
1 tsp. honey
Zest of one lemon
Juice of half a lemon
In a large skillet, place the walnut pieces over medium high and cook until toasted. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the olive oil to the pan, along with the mushrooms. Let cook for a minute or two, and add some salt and pepper to taste, along with the garlic.
Cook until the mushrooms are softened and starting to brown. Add the rosemary and pink peppercorns, and continue cooking for a few moments, until everything is fragrant. Add the nuts back to the pan to warm, the honey, zest, and lemon juice, and mix everything up, and set aside.
Marinate them for at least a half hour. They will keep nicely (if there are any left) for a week.
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