There is still a lot of stone fruit hanging from the trees, if you are lucky enough not to have been hit by a late spring freeze. But truth be told, I’ve had my fill of cobblers and pies (and don’t really race to the sweeter side even at the peak of the season). I am much more likely to turn even the sweetest of produce into something savory given the chance. So ponder this if you will – a nectarine or peach salad, made savory with fresh goat cheese and mint, and…wait for it…tossed with some luscious roasted beets! Trust me, this works.
I won’t take full credit because my pal Cindy dates it back to her Grandpa. Not sure, but I think I have made a few tweaks of my own. I love to drizzle mine with raspberry condimento. If you aren’t familiar with these, they tend to be more flavored (all kinds of fruits), cheaper, and have a higher viscosity than bona fide Balsamico. They are generally made in the traditional manner, but made in the wrong region or matured less than required for official Balsamico designation. Win-win in my books: great flavor and cheaper. And, I like the thickness. All the better to use as a judicious drizzle. The Cheese Lady has an enormous collection of flavors, though apparently in-store only. For online sourcing, I’m a big fan of O&Co.
This dish works on so many levels. The pungent earthiness associated with roasted beets is the perfect foil for the juicy sweetness of nectarines or peaches. The acidity of fresh goat cheese provides a needed contrast to any richness. And lots and lots of fresh mint truly elevate all flavors.
I love the idea of candy cane beets, which have a beautiful red and white stripe when cut into. But I have to say, their pattern is best in slices, not wedges, and their radiance smudges when cooked. There is nothing quite like a garnet-hued beet wedge up against a marigold-tinged nectarine wedge. If you haven’t roasted beets – before or lately – it could not be simpler! Preheat the oven to 400oF. Trim both ends of the beet and wrap each one, individually, in foil. Place on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes, depending on size. Start testing after 30 minutes, by sliding a knife into the flesh. The knife will slide right out when they are done. Remove from the oven and unwrap, when cool enough to handle. The skin will slide right off. There is zero point in struggling with a peeler in advance – this is much easier and has the added benefit of keeping all the nutrients within.
Be warned however, that you can’t tent the whole pan of beets in one big foil envelope. I’m horrified to report that I was beat by beets once before when I tried to, with 35 pounds of beets, short cut the individual wrap. I basically created a big ass beet steamroom, and they got very sweaty and harder still as they shriveled into small rocks. Just something about that individual foil wrap that makes the difference. Sauna 1. Steam 0, if you are keeping score.
*I like to remove the leaves from the stem, stack the leaves, and fold into a tight roll. Snip cross-wise with sharp scissors. You almost can’t have too much mint. Especially if it’s free because you steal it from a neighbor like I do.
Arrange the beets and nectarines or peaches in a serving bowl. I try not to stir too much because the colors will start to bleed.
Crumble the cheese on top.
Drizzle with the raspberry condimento.
Sprinkle the fresh mint on last, just before serving.