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moroccan beet salad

i-love-these-beets!  fragrant cumin paired with salty cheese, the earthy jewel toned beets slick with olive oil and just a bit of tang from the lemon or vinegar, this is addictive in the best of ways. the inspiration comes once again from betsy and a fantastic moroccan beet salad at Progressive Grounds in the city. 

there are perhaps endless riffs on this recipe.  i love it served atop a stiff romaine salad though it equally holds its own as a side dish.  add a single clove to the cumin when grinding it or some crushed red pepper for more spice.  a mix of red ace and chiogga beets makes a truly gorgeous pink and maroon gem show, a salad fit for royalty, picnics and your best girl-friends!

2 cups cooked beets, cubed
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 Tbl apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 packed cup parsley
1/4 cup feta, pecorino romano or another salty cheese
1 medium head of romaine or other lettuce
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Wash 5-7 medium-sized beets removing the tops and reserving the greens for another recipe.  place the beets in a pot and cover by an inch or two with water.  bring to a boil, reduce to a high simmer and continue to cook, lid on, until the beets are tender enough to pierce with a fork. 20-40 minutes.  you want them al dente, not squishy.  let the beets cool to the touch.  at this point you can pick up a beet, and gently squeeze it in your palm rubbing your fingers across the surface, the skin will slough gently off.  cube the skinned beets, 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces, and place in a bowl.

Add the cumin seeds to a dry saute pan.  turn the heat to medium and allow the seeds to brown, shaking the pan consistently to evenly toast.  stand close by and watch, then the colors deepen and an aroma rises from the pan immediately remove from heat.  grind to a chunky powder.  if you only have ground cumin, dry toast 3/4 tsp using the same method.  add cumin to the bowl of beets. 

Add lemon juice or vinegar to the beets, stir well to coat.  mince the parsley and crumble the feta (or grate the pecorino).  just before serving, add the olive oil, parsley and cheese to the beet mixture and gently toss to coat.  season with sea salt and pepper to taste. 

Have your salad greens washed and ready in a serving bowl.  just prior to serving lightly toss with your choice of olive oil and vinegar.  either top with the moroccan beets or serve alongside for people to top their own salads.  the beets keep well in the fridge.  i make a big batch (just moroccan beets, no lettuce) when we get our CSA box and keep it the glass tupperware for use all week.  if you do this, be sure to stir it well and remove your portion from fridge with enough time for it to come to room temperature before serving.

As a side note, i'll often dress the salad greens, add the feta directly to the greens, and toss, then just before serving, spoon the beet mixture on top of the salad, it looks quite pretty this way. 

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