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Beet and Watercress Salad with Fresh Mozzarella

For a delicious variation on this salad, check your local cheese shop or specialty foods market for burrata, a fresh mozzarella cheese filled with cream and fresh cheese curd. Its meltingly tender, creamy texture is delicious with the sweet beets and bitter watercress in this salad. Use two colors of beets if you like, or even striped Chioggia beets, if they are available.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lb. baby red and/or golden beets  
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 Tbs. Champagne vinegar 
  • 2 Tbs. fresh orange juice 
  • 1 tsp. grated orange zest 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 1/4 lb. watercress, cut into bite-size sprigs 
  • 1 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into wedges 
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste 

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Trim the root and stem ends from the beets and rinse well. Wrap the beets in heavy-duty aluminum foil, making a separate packet for each color. Bake until the beets can be pierced easily with a knife, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Unwrap the beets and let cool. Gently peel the beets with a paring knife, cut them into quarters and place in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, orange zest and salt. Pour half of the dressing over the beets and stir to coat. Add the watercress to the remaining dressing in the large bowl and toss to coat.

Mound the watercress on 4 individual plates or on 1 large platter and top with the beets. Arrange the cheese around the beets and drizzle with any vinaigrette left over from dressing the watercress. Sprinkle with a few grindings of pepper and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Eat Well, by Charity Ferreira (Oxmoor House, 2008).