Note: I wrote this recipe “Fried Cheese & Roasted Beet Salad” as part of a bigger feature in Edible Boston’s Winter 2021 issue. The feature focused on vegetarian recipes that are straightforward, easy, and feature local winter produce. You can see the feature here on Edible Boston, as well as an edited version of the article published in their print magazine below- in particular, I feel like understanding the “why” behind this recipe was key AND how I hope it’s used/read.
Edible Boston Feature: The Hidden Bounty of Winter Vegetables
It’s just not as easy to love local produce in the winter. The glamour of tomatoes and peaches is hard to compete with. But if you explore and get creative, winter produce can be just as colorful, rich, and delicious. I wanted each recipe to be like a blind date: a time to get to know a single vegetable- and maybe in a way you hadn’t considered before. (P.S. This recipe: all about the hearty greens. In particular, I wanted to utilize their stunning green color to infuse both color and flavor into rice.)
In my early days of cooking, I felt obligated to strictly follow recipes, even if that meant buying spices that just collected dust in my pantry. Over time, I began to think of recipes more like a template with suggestions. If a recipe calls for a bunch of different herbs, it’s okay if I only have a couple of them. While this philosophy was somewhat born out of practical constraints, it also made cooking less stressful- to the point of being fun. I had room to play and be creative.
So I encourage you to see these recipes as a starting point. Try swapping out a spice or two based on your personal taste. You may create something even better (and other times not- but it’s just a single meal and still worth trying). As a teacher, I know that some dive into this flexibility and experimentation, while others find it daunting. If you find yourself on the “I follow a recipe to a T” end of the spectrum, be sure to read the description for each recipe. I give specific suggestions and ideas on where there’s wiggle room to experiment. The more you make it your own, the more likely you are to make it again.
“Will you make it again?” is always my first question when assessing a recipe and my ultimate goal. It sounds obvious, but this question considers both the final product and the experience of making it. Have you ever finished a recipe, only to stare and wonder if a tornado just went through your kitchen? For me, the final straw was a stuffed pumpkin. After an inordinate amount of steps, the pumpkin was finally in the oven. And then I stepped back and saw the number of bowls and utensils to clean. Even if it was delicious, I knew I probably wouldn’t make it again, or at least not anytime soon.
Luckily, a recipe can have minimal ingredients, equipment or steps while still being creative and bold in flavor. While we often have our go-to flavors, I’ve found the key to consistently cooking most nights and not getting in a rut is mixing it up. So enjoy this collection of cozy vegetarian recipes that features a wide variety of flavors, textures, and aromas while also fitting into your busy schedule.
Recipes in this Feature:
- Cabbage Fritters, Two Ways
- One-Pot Cilantro Lime Rice with Poached Eggs
- Fried Cheese & Roasted Beet Salad
- Caramelized Cabbage & Orzo Risotto
- Roasted Squash with Toasted Sesame Seeds & Yellow Raisins
And now to this recipe… Fried Cheese & Roasted Beet Salad
This restaurant-worthy salad is full of texture and salty, sweet, and earthy flavors. This method of steaming and then roasting keeps the beets’ vibrant color while also caramelizing them. There are lots of ways to mix this one up. Cook a different grain, roast parsnips or carrots instead of beets or opt for a cheese that doesn’t need to be fried like goat cheese or blue cheese.
Fried Cheese & Roasted Beet Salad
- 3 medium red or golden beets, peeled
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + more for topping
- 1 teaspoon diamond kosher salt or ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 3-4 tablespoons canola oil or other high-heat oil, grapeseed oil, vegetable oil
- 4 ounces semi-firm cheese like panela or mozzarella, cut into ¼’’ slices
- 1 egg, beaten
- ½ cup panko
- 2 cups loosely packed augula
- 1 cup cooked farro, see recipe below
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Cut peeled beets in half and then slice into ¼’’ thick slices. Toss beets in extra virgin olive oil and salt and spread onto a foil-lined baking sheet.
- Cover pan entirely with foil. Bake covered in foil until beets are just slightly tender, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered until beets are lightly caramelized, another 10-20 minutes. Set aside.
While the beets are cooking… fry the cheese.
- Place beaten egg in one small bowl and panko in another small bowl.
- Heat a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add in canola oil- enough to generously coat the bottom of the pan.
- Dip cheese slice in egg wash and then dredge in panko. Add to pan and fry on one side until golden brown. Flip and repeat with other side. Repeat with other slices of cheese.