Warm Smashed Beet and Bacon Salad with Pickle Vinaigrette

This recipe plays off the idea of a Spinach Salad with a Warm Bacon Vinaigrette. In our version, we utilize the often unappreciated beet greens in place of spinach and jazz up the dressing with the delightful tang of pickles and capers. It’s the perfect intersection of salty, sweet and tangy. It makes an excellent side dish or starter for a dinner party. Everything can be prepped ahead of time. Simply reheat the beets and bacon in the oven prior to tossing the salad and be sure that the dressing is at room temperature.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot (1/2 a small shallot)
  • 1 teaspoon minced capers
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic (a small clove)
  • 2 tablespoon minced pickle
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons minced parsley
  • ½-pound bacon (about 6 slices)
  • 1-pound baby beets, similar in size for even roasting
  • 3 tablespoons bacon fat (reserved from cooking bacon)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups beet greens and stems, finely chopped (about 1 pound)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Combine the shallot, capers, garlic, pickle, whole grain mustard, sherry vinegar, olive oil, sea salt and parsley in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the blade attachment. Secure the lid and pulse until combined, about 1 minute. Set the dressing aside while preparing the salad.
  3. Nestle a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet and lay the bacon flat, in a single layer, across the rack. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and cook until the bacon is crispy, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside to cool. Reserve the bacon fat by pouring through a fine mesh strainer into a heat proof jar. Reserve the fat for later use.
  4. While the bacon is cooking, place the beets in a 3-quart pot, covered by about 2-inches of water. Bring the pot to a boil over a medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and gently boil until the beets are fork tender, about 30 minutes.
  5. Drain the beets into a colander and transfer them to the baking sheet used to cook the bacon. Allow them to cool for 10-15 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, use a measuring cup or other flat bottom utensil to smash down on the cooked beets. They will crush into small pieces and separate from their skins. Remove and discard the skin.
  6. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat over the beets. Season with the sea salt and black pepper. Using a clean hand, massage the fat and seasoning into the beets.
  7. Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Remove the tray and stir with a spatula. The beets should be just starting to get crispy. Return the tray to the oven and continue to cook until the beets become nicely crisp and slightly browned, about an additional 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the warm beets to a large mixing bowl. Add the greens. Crumble the strips of cooked bacon into the bowl as well and dress the salad, as desired, with the pickle vinaigrette. Serve immediately, while still warm.