Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Channeling Robin on Top Chef: A quinoa beet salad fail

I stare down at the mess on my fancy square white Crate & Barrel plate with slight apprehension.

It’s certainly… colorful.

I shake my head and dive my fork into the massive heap of roasted beets, quinoa, orange segments, roasted shallots, pomegranate seeds, arugula, feta cheese, and roasted chickpeas. I know before I even taste it that I’ve gone overboard with the ingredients. There are too many competing flavors and textures for my poor little mouth to handle. Despite my best efforts to make the ultimate fall quinoa salad, it’s a recipe fail.

It isn’t until the next day that I realize what exactly went wrong. I’m standing in my bathroom, brushing my teeth like I do every morning (I like a clean mouth), and it hits me.

I pulled a Robin on “Top Chef.”

I’ve gotten lots of giggles out of poking fun at the poor, slightly spastic cheftestant this season, but, ultimately, I’m not exactly making heads turn with all of my dishes either.

Just like Robin got overly excited about all the produce available for her to use during last week’s “Top Chef” elimination challenge at Craftsteak, I too got overly excited about all the ingredients I wanted to use in my salad. I was acting like a kid in a candy store at Whole Foods on Sunday – eyes bugging out over… well, everything.

The whole thing started because I was inspired by Gastronomy Blog’s recent post about how to roast beets. Cathy made the process sound so easy, and my mind immediately began composing a hearty salad with beets, orange segments and quinoa.

It would have been fine and dandy if I’d stuck to just a few basic flavors – namely, the beets, the orange segments, the quinoa, some feta, and the light vinaigrette dressing I made with orange juice, apple cider vinegar and honey – but I took it too far. The roasted chickpeas were particularly off-putting. The crunchy texture was a distraction rather than a delicious contrast to the tender beets. The peas were certainly not worth all the effort it took to peel the pesky skins off prior to roasting.

Fortunately, not all was lost. The salad was an antioxidant powerhouse, and I successfully roasted beets without staining my hands or, more importantly, scalding a good chunk of my arm like I did when I made pumpkin cookies the weekend prior. I just wish I liked beets as much as I think I do in my head. I ended up gifting the rest of my beet supply to my roommate last night. He quickly whipped up a dressing with Dijon mustard, olive oil and raspberry vinegar, and ate the beets sans any other accompaniment. I’m sure they tasted far better this way than they did when I blurred their flavor out with chickpeas and feta and oranges and arugula and pomegranate seeds and shallots on Sunday night.

For simple instructions on roasting beets check out Gastronomy Blog’s helpful how-to post.


yutjangsah said...

I adore beets. So does Oprah. She once related that she peed pink bc of beet overload. Interesting, no? I like to eat the canned ones straight outta the can. Outta the can and into my mouth. That's the life cycle of the canned beet in the yutjangsah's household.

Gastronomer said...

Our tastes were aligning so perfectly until I found out you're not a beet lover. At least you're not a hater.

The photo of your salad is glorious. I love colors.

Hungry Passport said...

I must say it's one of the prettiest fails I've ever seen!

Esi said...

Maybe next time look at all of the ingredients and, what's one thing I could remove? You'll get it right next time. I have faith in you :)

Diana said...

Sook - You make me scratch my head. In a good way.

Cathy - I have a love hate relationship with them. Sometimes I love them (Fraiche's beet salad is a fave), and other times, they make me want to gag. It's a rough life I lead. Rough indeed.

Hungry Passport - Thank you! So appreciate the kind words!

Esi - Aw thanks! I have faith in me too! If anyone can nail a quinoa salad, it's me! ;)

The Blonde Duck said...

I'm sure it was lovely. Don't be hard on yourself!

You'll think this is funny: For work I did a story on the top 5 burger places on the South side of the city--#1 hit on the entire Web site with more than 1 million hits! LOL. That tells you how fat and food-obsessed SA is!

Food, she thought. said...

You have created a monster. We are now eating your quinoa risotto at least once a week. This week I made it with frozen peas and corn because I didn't have time to go to the store. I love the way the quinoa has taken on the color of the beets here.