When the Marines took me on fun, 15-mile forced marches, with each step I knew I was coming closer to a fantastic meal. But not from their kitchens.
The Drill Instructors sang ditties to keep us in step, with lyrics such as Every day's a holiday, every meal's a feast. With every left-right-left I dreamed up recipes using good old Red, White and Blue as my inspiration. I made up recipes that included do-ahead elements so I'd have time to polish my boots and clean my M-16.
A Beet and goat cheese salad is a thrilling, hard-charging start to a dinner and gets your heart pumping. You can easily adapt and conquer to serve this at larger party and feed your army. Most of the elements can be made in advance and even pre-plated. You'll set the stun gun to fun and wow your guests. They'll remember your party the next day, I guarantee it.
Both beets and goat cheese can be acquired tastes, and since you must be 18 years old to enlist -- this dish is a better fit for adult audiences. Plus, beets can slip out of your hands and stain your white shirts.
I invite you to get comfortable and enjoy the show. Like strip-tease artiste Gypsy Rose Lee performing for the troops singing, Let me entertain you...and you'll have a real good time with these freshly roasted, gorgeous, voluptuous, full-bodied beets. Goat cheese is the creamy cashmere coat that warms this dish right into your grateful, patriotic heart.
You'll need to recruit the following:
4-5 Red and/or Golden Beets
Salt and Pepper
Roasting pan or foil
Rubber gloves (optional)
1.5 hours (most in advance)
Enough for four servings. Half if for two, double it for eight -- if you need six, text Stephen Hawking, I have a cake in the oven.
Lets do this...
1. Roast the beets. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets, chop off the greens and slice the tops and bottoms off. Don't peel them -- beets are better baked with their little jackets on.
Put these discards in your compost heap. And no, just piling them up doesn't make you a compostor, it makes you a slobbish hoarder. Check online to see if you can donate to a local compost center.
Drizzle the ends of the beets with a little EVOO, sprinkle with interracial pixie dust (salt and pepper).
You can wrap them in foil for an easy cleanup, but only when you have to, that stuff sticks around in landfills a long time. Unless you keep one those foil balls under the kitchen sink that you add to -- that one only stays in your "landfill" until you die, then your kids just toss it. Circle of life's garbage.
Roast the beets about an hour. Use that time to set the table with linens, cutlery, candles and flowers if you have them -- even if you're dining alone. Especially if you're dining alone.
Just like you at the end of long day being roasted at work, stick a fork in them -- if it sinks easily, they're done. Remove them from the baking dish, or foil you lazy bastard, to your cutting board --- they'll cool faster.
2. Peel Beets. I steal rubber gloves from any doctor's visit, or when visiting someone at a hospital.
When I had my first Marine physical and the doc told me to turn your head and cough, I wanted to know where his hands had been. Now medical offices have gloves that are yours for the taking. I'm not the guy driving up medical costs, I'm the guy with not-red fingers from peeling beets. Or do the right thing and order them here from Amazon (or anything else), it doesn't cost you one extra cent and I earn money to spend lavishly entertaining...maybe you.
If you buy the same color gloves as I stole, you can pause, wave your gloved hand in the air and put on a Blue Man Group puppet show. This may be why you're dining alone.
The skin will peel easily when rubbed like a genie's lamp. Put the peel in your compost heap. Rinse and keep the gloves for next time.
If you don't use gloves, later at your dinner hold your stained fingers up proudly -- your guest(s) will know you toiled over a hot mess. If you're dining alone and still have the gloves on, you are that hot mess.
3. Dice beets. For uniform cubes that look like perfectly matched soldiers, remember to chant the dicing mantra to the marching calls of left-right-left: Planks, sticks, cubes.
a) Slice the whole beets into disks, or planks; b) Slice those into sticks; c) Chop those into cubes.
If you can, take a basic knife skills class at a local cooking school, or watch an online video. It can make your prep a lot easier, and that finger you save may be your own.
Place the chopped beets in a bowl and toss lightly with the vinaigrette of your choice. I'm happy with a little lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.
4. Assemble with goat cheese. Grease your molding ring a bit on the inside with EVOO.
Place the molding ring down on the plate you'll be serving on. I use a ring -- you can use anything to get a shape, a ramekin, or cup, your hands (you know where your hands have been, so use gloves!).
Add a few teaspoons of goat cheese in the bottom. That forms a little base, onto which you then add some of the beets. Then add more goat cheese, then more beets.
I walked into boot camp with boys of every race, creed and religion. But in seconds we were all one color, green. Merge your salad together and achieve that same harmonious balance. Don't use too much goat cheese -- it's the back up singer to the beets and has a slightly funky flavor -- just like that one nutty, wild-eyed Supreme. Both she and goat cheese will never be a solo act -- too much is a mouthful of crazy.
When you've added about three layers, gently squish it all down, not too tight, to merge the cheese and beets. Keep a kitchen towel nearby to wipe your hands.
Wiggle the ring and gently lift it off like you're letting go of a kid's wobbly bike as he pedals off for the first time -- like that kid, your terrine will stand there on its own.
5. Plate and serve. Use the tongs and plop a bit of mixed greens or arugula on top. You can use those tiny chic-but-pricey micro greens if you want to part with that much green, but since you haven't been using my Amazon link, I'll have to stick to arugula for now.
Go for height and drama. Since life is about the journey and the destination, live it up along that journey. Stand tall and proud.
Layer color and vitality on your plate just as you enrich your life with vibrant, good-for-you friends. You don't need to dress these greens as they'll become part of each bite of the dressed terrine.
The most important thing to remember about this dish is that you've eaten beets!
So the next day when you glance into the toilet and experience "the red scare" and freak out, just remember you're not bleeding to death internally -- you've simply enjoyed another one of my wonderful recipes.
This dish can be served warm, too -- just place the beets in the bottom of individual ramekins, or one big baking dish if you're serving family style, sprinkle the goat cheese on top and bake at 275 degrees for about twenty minutes. Top with arugula when serving; wilted greens are terrific.
Please shop local -- don't invade a neighboring country's garden late at night to 'appropriate' produce. Obtain your veggies in this order:
Grow your own
Gift from a neighbor's garden
Whole Foods Grocery
Flown in on Space Monkeys' Backs
Give beets, and love, a chance. They'll get busy and love you back. They contain boron, which ancient Romans believed enhanced their sex drives...and last time I counted, there were countless Italians.
We learned to march four across in the Marines from Roman troops. To show and feel strength. We also marched on our stomach, and would have loved knowing this dish was waiting in the chow hall.
Beets, it's what's for dinner.