In my last post, I confessed to my love of cheese and my nearly non-stop indulgence in it while traveling through Ireland in May. On quite a few occasions, I found cheese, especially goat’s cheese, paired with beets in a sweet-tangy combination that is — no pun intended — unbeatable! At Reg’s in Waterford, a lively restaurant / pub adjacent to historic Reginald’s Tower, the waitress recommended a goat’s cheese and beet salad topped with, no less, fried parsnips crisps; and at Castlemartyr Resort in East Cork, I loved a light goat’s cheese mousse topped with beets served on a crisp crostini. Both recipes make easy and impressive starters. You’ll find recipes like this in my newest cookbook Favorite Flavors of Ireland. To order a signed copy, visit www.irishcook.com
GOAT’S CHEESE SALAD WITH BEETS AND PARSNIP CRISPS
For the beets
2 to 3 medium beets
Olive oil for roasting
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For the salad
1 large parsnip, peeled
Canola oil for frying
Mixed greens with arugula
4 ounces goat’s cheese, crumbled
Oil and vinegar for drizzling
Candied pecans or walnuts for serving
1. Make beets. Preheat oven to 375° F. Trim and wash beets and place on a piece of aluminum foil large enough to wrap beets. Rub with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Wrap to form a pouch and roast for 55 to 60 minutes, or until tender when pierced with tip of a knife. (Roasting times will vary depending on size of beets).
2. Remove beets from oven, and when cool enough to handle, rub skin away with a piece of paper towel or foil. (To prevent staining your hands, use rubber gloves). Slice beets and then cut into 1/2-inch cubes and toss with olive oil.
3. Make salad. With a vegetable peeler, peel off wide, long strips from parsnip. In a large skillet over high heat, heat oil. Working in batches, gently lower strips into oil and fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until browned and crisp. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel-lined plate.
4. Arrange salad on plates, toss with cheese, and top with parsnip crisps and candied nuts, if using. Drizzle with oil and vinegar or your favorite vinaigrette.
GOAT’S CHEESE MOUSSE WITH BEETS ON CROSTINI
For the mousse
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
2 tablespoons milk
4 ounces soft goat’s cheese
Sliced beets for serving
Crostini for serving
Fresh tarragon for garnish
Ground black pepper for topping
1. Make mousse. In a medium bowl, whip cream to soft peaks. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk and goat’s cheese. Fold into whipped cream, cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
2. Prepare beets as in previous recipe.
3. To serve, scoop out 1 tablespoon of mousse, and with another tablespoon, smooth and form it into an egg shape quenelle (if you can’t form perfect egg-shaped quenelles, simply spoon the mousse onto crostini). Top each crostini with a quenelle, a slice of beet, and garnish with tarragon. Sprinkle with pepper.