I thought I'd seen and sampled every version of beets + goat cheese + greens there was to be had. But the salad I recently ordered at Black Sheep Pizza in Minneapolis, Minnesota lifted my eyebrows and put a smile on my face. What made theirs unique? A tangy, nutty, and slightly smoky romesco sauce spooned over the roasted beets. I couldn't wait to re-create it back in my own kitchen. Romesco sauce is a mix of roasted red peppers, hazelnuts or almonds, garlic, and vinegar with origins in Spanish cuisine. It's normally blended into a smooth paste and used like pesto to dress vegetables or a steamed fish.
In Black Sheep Pizza's version of the sauce, the ingredients are coarsely chopped instead of puréed. You get a tasty blend of diverse flavors and textures in every bite, and the red wine vinegar gives just the right tangy note to bring it together.
I also thought the salad could do with a few croutons (what salad can't?!). I take a shortcut by simply toasting a few slices of bread in the toaster and then rubbing them with garlic. This creates a more mild and subtle garlic flavor than I'd get if I minced raw garlic into the sauce.
If you are ever in Minneapolis or St. Paul, definitely make time to stop by Black Sheep Pizza. If this salad was phenomenal, their pizzas were even better.
Black Sheep Pizza
• 600 Washington Ave N., Minneapolis, MN 55401
• 512 N. Robert St., St. Paul, MN 55102
Beet Salad with Romesco and Spring Greens
Serves 4-6 as a first course
3 large (about 1 pound) beets
1 12-oz jar (2 whole) roasted red peppers - or roast your own
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts or almonds
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 slices sandwich bread
1 clove garlic
8 ounces spring greens
5 ounces goat cheese
Heat the oven to 425° F.
To Prepare the Beets: Clean the beets and rub them with a little olive oil. Wrap the beets in foil and roast them for 45-60 minutes until easily pierced with a fork. Allow to cool enough to handle, then rub the skins off with a paper towel and slice the beets into thin rounds. Set aside.
To Prepare the Romesco Sauce: Meanwhile, roughly chop the red peppers and nuts, and combine in a bowl. Mince the shallot and add this to the peppers and nuts. Whisk together the vinegar, oil, paprika, salt, and pepper. Pour this over the red pepper mix and stir to coat. Set aside.
Toast the slices of bread several times on your lowest toaster setting until the slices are crisp and lightly golden. While the toast is still warm, rub both sides with the clove of garlic. When the toast has cooled, cut the slices into small cubes with a bread knife.
To Plate the Salad: Divide the slices of beet across 4-6 plates and arrange them in a single layer. Using a slotted spoon, add a scoop of the romesco sauce on top of the beets. Sprinkle a handful of bread cubes over top. Toss the greens with two tablespoons of leftover vinaigrette from the romesco sauce, and place a handful on top of each plate. To finish, add a few dabs of goat cheese around the edge of each plate and serve.
• The romesco sauce can be made ahead, but needs to be used within a day or the nuts begin to soften.
• A sprinkle of crunchy sea salt over the top of each finished salad is the coup de resistance at a fancy dinner party.
(Images: Emma Christensen)