Happy Easter Weekend!
As much as I’d love to say I’m feeling very festive, the truth is, my mind is so preoccupied with upcoming nuptials that a holiday isn’t really anything out of the ordinary, nor is it garnering much of my attention. In addition to that, I don’t have kids to send on an Easter egg hunt and honestly can’t be bothered to paint eggs. Maybe I’ll see the Easter bunny hopping around. Maybe I’ll treat myself to a couple of decadent dark chocolates, that’s festive, right!? To me, Easter is symbolic of so much more than chocolate, candy coasted eggs and marshmallow peeps – it’s a sure sign that spring has sprung! The world transforms from its winter slumber into vibrant colour, radiant life and eternal optimism.
My plan for celebrating Easter is to enjoy a beautiful dinner gathering with friends and family this evening so I came up with this dish as my contribution to this evening’s dinner and my only real requirements was for it to be extremely colourful and springy. When I think of Easter, I think pastels, which this dish is absolutely not. However, it’s vibrant hues are sure to put a spring in your step and have you looking forward to brighter sunnier months ahead. Looking at the beets and radishes below they could almost pass for brightly coloured eggs! Maybe??
You will notice in the ingredients list, this recipe is not overly specific and that’s simply because this is a dish that has wiggle room. Don’t worry too much about getting a beet that’s the exact right size or the exact amount of green beans – use your own best judgment. In order to keep the energetic and lively colours of our variety of beets and the fabulous watermelon radish, and to keep this dish crispy and fresh, I’ve chosen to keep them raw but very thinly sliced so they aren’t tough. Additionally, as you may be aware, we need to take extra precautions when preparing those beautiful purple beets to ensure they don’t “bleed” all over the other ingredients, otherwise our vibrant salad will become painted pink – which, hey, if it happens, no big deal, it will just be a bit more monotone. But I’ll give you a few tricks to keeping all that bright fuscia colour from running all over your dish.
Even though this recipe is called Springtime Beet Carpaccio, there are a few other hidden surprises in the dish. One of those being watermelon radish, which is quite new to me, but I knew it was love at first sight. These funky vegetables look a bit more like a green beet from the outside with its slightly rough exterior and larger size, but with a beautiful fuscia and white interior and the delicate peppery spice and crunch of your everyday radish on the palate. Thinly sliced (or sliced slightly thicker and quartered as I’ve done), the watermelon radish offers a beautiful kick to this dish. If you aren’t able to find a watermelon radish, regular red radish would work well too.
Often when you find a recipe for Beet Carpaccio, goat cheese is usually involved. I think the stark white of the cheese is such a stunning contrast to the colourful veggies. So instead, I opted to use Israeli couscous (also known as pearl couscous); a slightly different version of the petite couscous you may be more familiar with. Israeli couscous is off white in colour, more round and larger in size and as a result has a chewier texture compared to regular couscous. Both variations of couscous are made from semolina or wheat flour and contain gluten. To me it seems a bit like small tapioca balls. If you are looking for a variation of this dish without gluten, quinoa would be an easy substitution.
This is a great dish to serve as an appetizer or alongside a main and is perfect to serve all spring and summer long!
Here’s to a happy, healthy, vibrant springtime!
Springtime Beet Carpaccio
Serves 10-12 as a side
1 medium-large beet (approximately 3″ in diameter)
1 medium-large golden beet (approximately 3″ in diameter)
2 small-medium Chioggia (Candy Cane) beets (approximately 2″ in diameter)
1 large Watermelon Radish (about the same size as a beet if available)
4-5 handfuls green beans, ends trimmed
1.5 cups Israeli (Pearl) Couscous
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette to taste
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Sea salt and coarse black pepper
1. Bring 3 cups water to a boil, add Israeli couscous and a little olive oil and return to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer uncovered for 5-8 minutes, stirring regularly, until tender but not mushy. Remove from heat and rinse in a small sieve under cold running water until room temperature is achieved. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and stir to combine (this helps prevent it from sticking together!). Set aside.
2. Prepare all the beets and watermelon radish by washing under running water to remove any dirt or debris. I used a hard bristle brush to get into all of the nooks and crannies to remove any hidden dirt. Trim the ends and remove any dark spots. Peeling isn’t necessary, but is optional if you prefer it. Thinly slice using a mandolin, removing each ingredient from beneath the mandolin, saving the dark purple beets for last.
3. Place watermelon radish, golden beets and Chioggia beets into a large bowl and add couscous.
4. Place sliced purple beet in a separate bowl and cover with lukewarm water. Add salt and lemon juice. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes. Rinse and drain several more times until the water runs (almost!) clear. Gently blot with a paper towel to remove some of the excess moisture.
5. Blanche the green beans by bringing a pot of salted water to a boil. Submerge the beans in the water for 3-5 minutes or until tender. While the beans are simmering away, prepare an ice bath for the beans by filling a bowl with ice and generous amounts of cold water. Once beans are par cooked (tender yet firm), immediately drain and transfer to the ice bath for about 5 minutes until well chilled. Drain off the water and remove any remaining ice cubes.
6. Prepare the dressing by combining all ingredients in a bowl or small jar and whisk together.
7. Ready to assemble. Begin by layering the purple beets on the bottom of your serving dish (despite our best efforts there will likely still be a bit of colour that transfers either to the plate or the other ingredients). You may wish to blot again with paper towels to remove some of the water. Spoon a bit of dressing across the beets. Next, lay out the green beans across the beets. Continue adding the remaining ingredients and top with dressing. An extra drizzle of balsamic across the top and sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to finish it off. Allow to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours or serve immediately (*Note the longer it marinates, the increased likelihood of the colours combining or the balsamic “staining” the couscous and beets).