Saturday, August 18, 2007

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese

A wonderful treat while beets are still relatively new is beets roasted in a little oil and served with a complementary fixing like goat cheese. It also reduces your kitchen time, which is a blessing in this summer heat.

It's full summer in Atlanta. This has been a record-setting summer with dozens of days over a hundred. We had not previously reached 100 since the year 2000. (That's a little secret of Atlanta, that generally our summers are milder than New Jersey, plus we are much better equipped -- read air conditioned.) But this summer no one wants to cook much in a hot kitchen. So here's a terrrific simple hot summer evening meal, roasted beets with goat cheese, accompanied by good bread and good salad featuring garden fresh tomatoes. (Those we had this evening were courtesy of Kevin, Maria's fiancee, who is working this summer on an organic community-supported farm.)

Roasted beets couldn't be easier. The only important thing is to get -- or raise -- good sweet beets which are non-fibrous. (The ones from the local farm in spring, or from California at other times, are not designed for storage and are sweet and without fiber.) The only thing is to peel them before cooking and to use a little olive oil and salt for the roasting. The best goat cheese I have had recently is the fines-herbes goat cheese from Canada, known as "Madame Chevre". Other soft goat cheeses will serve also, includng the ones made in Vermont and in France. It's the soft cheese with either finely minced fresh herbs on the outide or grape-vine ashes as a coating that I particularly like. You want the soft unripened cheese, not the aged cheeses such as the fabulous goat cheese from La Mancha in Spain ("Mancheco cabra") or from the Mediterranean. Save the aged goat cheeses for tapas or dessert or taking on camping trips, where they keep well in a back pack.

This dish will serve as a main part of a cool dinner on a hot summer evening (like tonight for the family) or as a major appetizer course for a full, fancier meal. The quantity is sufficient for six people. The dish goes especially well with a chilled, slightly acidic white wine such as a sauvignon blanc (especially from New Zealand) or a light-bodied chardonnay, such a from Australia or Washington state.

Roasted Beets Tim with Fresh Goat Cheese

1-1/2 to 2 pounds young, not very large beets (maximum of 2-1/2 inches diameter)
A little salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound fresh soft goat cheese, such as "Madame Chevre" from Canada

Crusty French or Italian bread for accompaniment

Heat oven to 360 degrees. Peel the beets and trim off the stems and tails. Cut in half then into four pieces for each half. Sprinkle lightly with salt, then with olive oil. Toss together then set them out on a cookie sheet. Roast 10 minutes, then turn them with a spatula. Roast them another 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender. Test with a two-pronged fork or toothpick for doneness, and bake a little longer if needed.

When baked, let the beets cool somewhat and place them on part of a platter and put the log of goat cheese on the other end of the platter. Parsley is an optional garnish.

Enjoy with warm crusty bread and a salad.

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