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Beet and Stilton Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

Baked beets have a deeper, richer taste than boiled beets. If you like, you can cook them a day or two ahead and refrigerate, still wrapped in foil, until you are ready to peel and slice them. Stilton, a sharply flavored English blue cheese, balances the natural sweetness of the beets, but other blue-veined cheeses, such as Gorgonzola, Roquefort or Saga blue, can be substituted.

Ingredients:

  • 4 beets, about 1 1/4 lb. total
  •   

For the orange vinaigrette:

  • 3 Tbs. fresh orange juice 
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar 
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh dill 
  • 1 tsp. grated orange zest 
  • 1/4 tsp. minced garlic 
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt  
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  •   
  • 3 green onions, white and light green portions, thinly sliced on the diagonal  
  • 1 Tbs. finely slivered orange zest 
  • 10 oz. mixed salad greens (about 8 cups loosely packed) 
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced English cucumber 
  • 3 oz. cold Stilton cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup) 
  • Fresh dill sprigs for garnish 

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Trim off the leafy green tops from the beets and reserve for another use. Wrap the beets individually in squares of aluminum foil, tightly securing the foil. Place on a baking sheet. Bake the beets until tender when pierced with a skewer, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let cool in the foil. Unwrap and peel off the loosened skins. Cut each beet crosswise into 4 or 5 slices. Place in a bowl.

To make the orange vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, olive oil, vinegar, minced dill, grated orange zest, garlic, salt and a grind of pepper until blended.

Pour all but 2 Tbs. of the vinaigrette over the beets. Add half of the green onions and half of the slivered orange zest; stir gently just to blend. In a separate bowl, combine the salad greens and the reserved 2 Tbs. vinaigrette and toss to coat the greens.

Arrange the salad greens evenly on a platter or divide among individual plates. Using a slotted spoon, remove the beets from the bowl and place on the greens. Tuck the cucumber slices in among the beets. Drizzle any vinaigrette remaining in the bowl over the beets. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining green onions and slivered orange zest and top with the cheese. Garnish with dill sprigs and serve. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).