Sometimes I roll my eyes at things, even when I shouldn’t. Its true. Ask my very patient mother and husband, who have seen the whites of my eyes more frequently than I care to remember. And I have been known to roll my eyes at beet salads, which are a staple at every West Coast restaurant I know. Maybe it’s because I used to make scores of them as a pantry cook–at one restaurant, we’d slice the beets super thin on a mandolin, lay em out across the plate in a single layer, season them with sea salt, garlic, parsley, olive oil and sherry vinegar and send them out. One beet–lets say that costs $1.50 max, made three salads or so, and we could charge about $8 or $10 for it. Not a bad ROI, even with a little (very little) labor thrown in. So I might be impatient with beets, but its a loving impatience, because of course, beets are so good.
Last night I was determined to make a beet salad, but not throw blue cheese or chevre into it, as so many restaurants do–again, delicious, but I wanted a different focus. And so I mixed my cooked beets with pears (which turned bright magenta in the mix), and for a little wildness of flavor and texture, some fried sage leaves. It was a great combo, and what follows is not a true recipe (I was using leftover lemon vinaigrette), but an idea how to put a lovely fall beet salad together. Just don’t roll your eyes.
Sage, Beet, and Pear salad
2 tablespoons lemon or red wine vinaigrette
2 tablespoons olive oil
20-30 sage leaves
12 oz cooked beets–about 3–peeled and cut into bite-sized wedges
2 pears, peeled, cored and sliced into wedges
Lemon juice and salt to taste
Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a tiny little pan (I have the cutest 4 inch lodge pan), over a medium high burner. Have ready a skimmer or a small strainer set over a bowl. Once hot, drop a layer of leaves into the oil and cook, shaking the pan gently to evenly distribute the leaves. After 30 seconds, pull out the leaves with the skimmer (or pour the oil through the strainer, returning the oil to the pan). You may need to work in batches to fry off all the leaves. When done, save 2 tablespoons of the sage oil, and save the rest for another use. Toss the beets, pears, vinaigrette, and sage oil together. Then season with lemon juice and salt to taste. The salad tastes great if it can sit around for a while before serving, but keep the sage leaves separate until the last minute. Then sprinkle them atop the salad and enjoy.