Any beets will do, but the golden beets are lighter tasting than red and look lovely with the kale. Much of the success of this dish relies on really tender kale. Scotch kale was used, but Russian would work as well.
1 bunch of golden beets, tops removed with 1 inch of stem left on, unpeeled
1 bunch of tender Scotch kale, cleaned, stripped from stems
1 batch of Orange Cilantro Dressing (recipe follows)
Oil as needed
1/2 cup salted, shelled pistachios or pepitas, your choice*
Orange Cilantro Dressing
½ cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons orange juice, fresh squeezed if possible
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey, as needed
Stems from half a bunch of cilantro (or 1 very heaping half-cup)
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves
1½ cup neutral flavored oil such as grapeseed, sunflower, etc.
1 pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Rub the beets with a little oil and place in an oven dish and cover tightly. Place in the oven and bake 1 hour or until the tip of a thin sharp knife or toothpick will easily pierce a beet.
While the beets cook, make the dressing. Place the cilantro stems and leaves in a blender with the vinegar, juice, and agave. Start on low and work up to full speed, pureeing the cilantro into liquid. Add a little salt and blend in. Through the hole in the top of the blender lid, drizzle the oil in a thin steady stream with the blender on medium. At the halfway mark of the oil, turn to high and continue adding the oil until it is all in. Puree a few seconds after the last of the oil goes in. With the motor off, taste the dressing. It should be lightly sweet with a good taste of cilantro and a background of orange. Adjust the flavors as needed and add a little salt if need be. Reserve.
Stack kale leaves and chop into bite-sized bits, or simply tear the kale with your fingers. Place in a plastic bag with a paper towel and store in the refrigerator until needed.
When the beets are tender, remove from the oven and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel them. Do this with your fingers, simply peeling the skin off with your fingers (most of it will slip right off), using a paring knife for the stubborn bits. Cut beets into 6 wedges for medium sized beets-around a ½ inch at the wide part. Place beets in a non-reactive bowl and pour three-quarters of the dressing over them and toss to coat. Allow the beets to cool in the dressing.
When the beets are no longer warm, place in the refrigerator to chill.
To finish the salad, assemble it at least a half-hour prior to service. Remove the beets and kale from the refrigerator and combine them, tossing to mix well. If the salad seems dry, add more dressing. Allow flavors to marry and the kale to wilt a little.
To serve, place potions of salad in bowl or plate and scatter a quarter of the nuts or seeds over. Serve cool or room temperature.
Cilantro and orange are equally at home with flavors of the Southwest and the North Africa/Middle East, so pick your toppers according to the rest of the meal or whatever you prefer. Bits of soft mild goat cheese or mild feta would work with this salad, although feta and salted pistachios might be too much salt.
YIELD: Serves: 4