My older brother and his daughter have been coming around on Wednesdays to spend the day with us. The kids
fight play together, and we hang out, shoot the shit. He lives in Taiwan these days, so it is especially nice to be able to spend some time together. It is also especially nice to be able to spend some time with my niece – she is small and sweet and funny.
Brothers are a lovely thing. I have two. One older, one younger. Having lived away from my hometown for the past six years, my favourite part of homecoming thus far has been having my brothers (and my nieces) in close proximity. There is something tangible about the sibling bond that I had forgotten about these past few years. They are the only two people that I feel comfortable punching with all my strength, that I can whinge with without feeling guilty, that love my kids in the way that only family can, that laugh at their own bad jokes in a way that is somehow endearing.
And so a couple of Wednesdays ago, I made this salad for my brother and I to share for lunch. A few days prior S and I had been down at the Flemington Farmers Market – even though it isn’t quite winter yet, the trestle tables were piled high with thick dark glossy greens, purple-streaked garlic, the deep jewel tones of beets and heirloom carrots, sunset globes of persimmon.
Amongst other items, I picked up a big bunch of luscious rainbow-beetroot, decked out in egg-yolk yellows, bubblegum pink and deep crimson. The beet leaves were so bright and fresh I determined to use them in a salad. In keeping with the autumn-theme, I paired the beet leaves with soft roasted beetroot, the crunch of hazelnuts, thin slices of sweet firm pear, and a hint of spring onion to pack some punch. Quinoa to add some protein, and a simple vinaigrette to tie it all together.
This is the kind of salad that keeps on giving. You can throw it together on a Friday arvo, and yum it up for the rest of the weekend. The sturdy beet leaves hold their own well for a couple of days in the fridge, and the balance of flavours and textures keep things interesting.
Beetroot, Quinoa & Hazelnut Salad
This salad is hearty and refreshing at the same time. If you can’t get a hold of beet leaves, use another dark leafy green – kale would work well, or even a combo of spinach and rocket leaves. I’ve also made this salad with a ripe crunchy persimmon in place of the pear, and it was lovely. And if you’re not vegan, a few shards of sharp pecorino definitely wouldn’t go astray.
1/2 cup quinoa, cooked
8 – 12 small/medium beetroot, root & leaf
1 – 2 spring onion
1 small bosc pear
1/3 cup hazelnuts, roasted
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Extra-virgin olive oil, to cook
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsps wholegrain mustard
1 tsp maple syrup or honey
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste
Start by making the dressing. Combine the lemon juice, mustard, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, oil, and salt & pepper in a jar or glass and whisk together.
Removing the stems, thinly slice the beet leaves. In a large bowl toss the sliced beet leaves together with the dressing and leave to sit for 10 – 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200°c/400°f.
Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, slice the beetroot into rounds, approx. 1 – 2cm thick. Toss the sliced beetroot together with a glug of olive oil, then arrange in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast in the preheated oven for approx. 20 – 25 mins, until the beetroot are tender and starting to crisp at the edges.
Halve and core the pear, then thinly slice. Remove the ends of the spring onion, and also finely slice, using both the green and white parts. Roughly chop the roasted hazelnuts, using either a knife or a mortar & pestle.
Add the pear, the onion, the hazelnuts, the roasted beetroot, the sesame seeds, and the cooked quinoa to the bowl of beet leaves. Toss to combine. Serve.
Serves: 2 – 4