|Steamed carrot slaw with roasted beets. © Ryan Schierling|
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I'm fairly certain I would be a terrible contestant on one of those competition-based cooking shows. You know the ones where contestants have to execute something spectacular in under 20 minutes with a limited number of disparate ingredients? Not a minute to spare rethinking or redoing anything? I’d probably knock it out of the park about one in three rounds, and full-on crash and burn the rest. Pressure cooker situations are just not for a planner like me. However, that’s not to say I don't enjoy rising to a challenge when the opportunity presents itself.
A few weeks ago, Ryan and I decided on making dinner with a simply-prepared white fish as the main course. He posited that we should each make a side dish of our choosing. When it comes to food, we are generally quite collaborative, so it was clearly one of those "wow me" opportunities that I was not about to eschew. I gave some thought to the produce we had on hand – namely about three pounds of carrots in the crisper – and had a strong inclination to try something new in the form of a “cooked” carrot preparation. The style needed to be something other than sliced on the bias, and I wanted to play up the carrot's sweetness in a tender and straight-forward way. Beets and onions were going to be their besties. The only thing I wasn't too sure about was how to plate and present it, but by the end of preparation I found myself arranging a display of root vegetables so cheery and bright that I'm certain I took Ryan by surprise. There wasn’t a next round hinging on this challenge, the only prize was going to be our satisfied senses.
This is an incredibly clean and simple preparation, as honest to the eye and as it is to the palate.
The base of this is essentially a slaw created from carrots and pickled red onions. The carrots are sliced using a julienne peeler, then steamed on the stovetop until just tender and at the point where they have lost that decidedly "raw" carrot flavor, but they still have an al dente quality. The sweetness of the carrots is then complimented by very thinly-sliced red onions which have been quick-pickled in rice wine vinegar – which for an acid is its own kind of sweet. This slaw can then be plated in whatever size portions you wish and topped with wedges of cooled, roasted beets. I like the little squared wedges because they look like a deep ruby tuna crudo. The dish is finished with black salt and rough-chopped parsley.
Serve as a small side dish, or on a long serving plate for the family table.
Carrot slaw with roasted beets
2 small to medium sized beets, roasted or smoked
4 carrots, jullienned
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
Parsley, roughly chopped
Hawaiian black sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Scrub beets, dry and place on a small baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Drizzle a little olive oil over the beets and cover with another piece of aluminum foil, sealing around the sides of the baking sheet. (Or, you can make a little foil packet and seal the beets in that way.) Roast until tender and a paring knife will easily pierce the beet, between 1-2 hours depending on the size of your veg. Remove from foil and let cool. Peel the skin off the beets and discard, cut beets into wedges.
Julienne carrots using julienne slicer. Using steamer basket in a medium saucepan, steam the carrots for about 10 minutes, or until tender and the raw flavor is gone. They should still have some tooth. Allow to cool to room temperature (or just slightly warm).
Put sliced red onions in a bowl and add rice wine vinegar, then add cold water to cover the onions. Set aside for about 15 minutes to marinate.
Drain the onions (don't squeeze) and toss together with the steamed carrots. Plate the carrot mixture and arrange roasted beet pieces on top. Garnish with parsley and a pinch of black salt (smoked salt or flaked sea salt are also good options). Serves two to four, depending on the serving size.
* Of course, if this violates any other Television Food Network G.P. copyrights, or Nintendo copyrights, we apologize profusely to Mark Dacascos and all parties involved.