Know what that is?
A while back, some friends on Facebook (where else?) were talking about recipes, and somebody mentioned a beet and corn salad. At the time, I had to pause and ponder such a creation. Beets, good…corn, good (though not my favorite vegetable by any means)…beets and corn together? I wasn’t sure this marriage would be a successful one. But after some contemplation, I thought that maybe the earthiness of the beets, with their sort of blooming sweetness, would pair pretty well with the sharper, fresher pops of sweet corn flavor. When I wrote to my friends that I was intrigued by the salad, I received the response: “You would LOVE this thing. It’s just beets, corn, and basil.”
But as tasty as a beet and corn salad with basil sounded, it also sounded like something that might respond well to some tinkering. Could I make it a main dish, I wondered? A light vegetarian dinner is always welcome in the hot summer months, and since we’re really trying to reduce our meat consumption, I’m forever seeking ways to make creative vegetarian meals that will satisfy J. and the boys. Luckily, beets are one of the most liked items in our household right now, which is pretty amusing if you consider that 1) J. thought he HATED beets until about a year ago, when I started insisting on serving them more than once every six months; and 2) I doubt there are large mobs of 4-year-old children out there who can sincerely declare the beet their favorite vegetable, and who’d rather eat beets than strawberries. But beets are, indeed, L.’s favorite vegetable, and since he still doesn’t like strawberries (or most fruits, for that matter), he’d much rather take down a plate of beets for dinner than, say, a fruit salad. (He reminded me of this fact pretty vehemently tonight as he watched me slice strawberries for our fruit platter.)
1 loaf day-old sourdough or other hearty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (should be about 6 cups of bread cubes)
3 large or 6 small red beets (golden would work as well), roasted and cooled
2 cups cooked corn kernels
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons honey
Approximately 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking the beets and croutons
Salt and pepper
Goat cheese (optional)
Begin by roasting the beets — wash them, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Place in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, then remove and allow them to cool in the foil (they’ll continue to cook that way). (I did this the night before making the salad.)
Once the beets are cooked and cooled, the skins should slip right off. Peel the beets and slice them thinly; if they’re large, cut the slices in half. Set the sliced beets aside.
Combine the warm bread cubes, beets, corn, and basil in a large bowl. Pour 1/2 of the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Depending on the density and texture of your bread, you may need more dressing. Taste and add more dressing as needed. (I used about 2/3 of what was made.) Serve the salad immediately, topped with crumbled goat cheese if desired.