Having just come off of last week’s Hunger Challenge, one would expect that I would go all out and have some elaborate meals to celebrate my return to “normal” eating. Trust me, that’s what my tummy was asking for! Ironically, I am faced with another paltry couple of weeks in which I will probably be forced to keep my daily food budget close to the $4 we Hunger Challengers were allotted (gotta love rent time!). Though I would have loved to enjoy some crazy cheese-filled concoction or something equally evil, I have made my peace with having to stick with more Bare Bones type meals for a few more days. Especially when I know I can make Bare Bones meals far more interesting than one would expect, which is exactly what I did with this fun hybrid of a recipe.
Just a few days ago I would have called anyone who tried to roast anything – beets or otherwise – utterly crazy, since most of California was roasting just fine on its own and needed no help from local ovens. Alas, autumn has finally made its presence known with a little crisp nip in the morning air and fiery colored leaves on all the trees, so it seemed like a good time to reacquaint myself with my oven. A few fresh beets still lingered in my fridge from my final farmers market foray for awhile (choir season’s back in full swing, so farmers markets are few & far between *sob*) and I planned on roasting them for some random recipe. As I was trying to come up with said random recipe, another idea popped into my head and I decided to combine my idea with one that I saw on epicurious.com a couple years ago.
My original idea was to somehow incorporate beets into a nice warm farro salad, but as the idea of sweet roasted beets combined with smoky caramelized onions and chewy farro began to take shape, I was reminded of a similar farro-less beet recipe that I’m almost a fan of. Because I find the flavors of that particular dish completely unbalanced when made as written, I haven’t really gone back to it. However, the idea of the whole thing seems genius and I’ve wanted to play with it for some time now, just to get it to where I think it should be flavor wise. With a little tweaking here & there, I knew I could turn into a deliciously healthy meal that will not completely assault your palate with salt.
You can certainly use canned beets if you don’t find any worthy fresh ones to roast. The dish will still taste great and you’d only need about 1 can tops to yield the same amount as the roasted ones do. It might be fun to try sautéing the beet greens and adding them to the whole thing, something I would have done if they had been worthy of saving. Let me know how it turns out if you try it that way!
Roasted Beet & Farro Salad with Spinach and Caramelized Onions (serves 3-4; total cost per serving: ~ $1.70)
2 c cooked farro
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
1/2 c fresh spinach, cut into ribbons
3 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
3/4 t sugar
2 oz. crumbled feta or goat cheeseDressing:
3 T rice vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
1 T honey
1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400. Rinse the beets very well and pat dry. Wrap each beet individually in foil. When oven is heated, place the beets inside and roast for about 25 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the dressing by combining all ingredients and whisking together well. Divide into two separate bowls and set aside.
While the beets are roasting, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, salt and sugar, and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the onions become a deep caramel brown. When the beets are done, carefully remove the foil wrappings and place in a bowl with cold water. When they are cool enough to handle, rub off the peel with your fingers. Cut any stems or root ends that may remain, then chop into 1” cubes.
Pour one of the bowls of dressing onto the beets and toss together. Place the farro in a large bowl and pour the rest of the dressing on top, along with the caramelized onions (you may want to reserve a bit of the onions for garnish). Add the spinach and toss together well. Place a bit of the farro & spinach mixture on a plate, top with plenty of beets, crumble a generous amount of feta on top, and enjoy!