Beets are a neglected vegetable that deserve more than the pickle jar, as this Egyptian salad demonstrates. And the semi-hard, salty cheese of Middle Eastern and Greek cuisine adds flavour to the dish. The recipe was adapted by Toronto TV chef Shahir Massoud from his mother’s cooking. Massoud’s cookbook Eat, Habibi, Eat! (Appetite by Random House, $35) is titled with words Arab parents might use to urge their child to eat. But there’s no need for urging with this appetizing collection of more than 100 recipes, beautifully photographed by Kyla Zanardi. Some general cooking knowledge would help with a few of the recipes, though.
The vinaigrette recipe makes a batch you can store and use on salad, chicken or fish. You can stick with red beets, but mixing them with yellow beets adds to the salad’s appearance.
Seared Halloumi and Orange-Glazed Beet Salad
3/4 cup (175 mL) olive oil
Juice of 2 medium lemons (1/3 cup or 75 mL)
1 1/2 tablespoons (22 mL) honey
1 tablespoon (15 mL) Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL) salt
In a large bowl, combine the oil, lemon juice, honey, mustard and salt. Whisk well together, then transfer to a squeeze bottle or covered jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Makes 1 1/4 cups (300 mL) of dressing.
1/2 pound (250 g) each red and yellow beets *
1/2 cup (125 mL) orange juice
1/4 cup (60 mL) lemon vinaigrette (see recipe above)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 slices country bread
2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
4 ounces (125 g) halloumi cheese, sliced **
1 cup (250 mL) arugula
2 tablespoons (30 mL) pistachios, finely chopped
* Total: 2 cups (500 mL) cut up, or 4 small beets
** Cheese curds or mozzarella may be substituted; add salt to taste.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 C). Wrap the two colours of beets separately in aluminum foil. Roast in preheated oven for 1 1/2 to two hours until tender.
While beets are still warm, peel and chop into 1 1/2-inch (4 centimetre) pieces.
Place red beets and orange juice in a saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook for two to three minutes until liquid is syrupy.
In a large bowl, toss the yellow beets and the vinaigrette until evenly coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Drizzle the bread with 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the olive oil, and toast in the preheated oven for five to eight minutes until golden and crisp. Break into pieces.
Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat, and sear the cheese for one to two minutes per side until golden brown.
Divide slices of cheese evenly among four serving plates, and surround with red and yellow beets and arugula. Top with pistachios and bread, and drizzle with remaining orange juice pan drippings.
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