Spinach & Beet Salad with Port Reduction & Crispy Shallots
Spinach and roasted beet salad is a delicious and classic combination. And here’s my little take on how to amp it up a bit and make it even more delicious; by adding in a sweet reduction of port wine and a crunch from crispy fried shallots.
The best part is you can make several steps ahead of time and have them on hand and ready for when you want to assemble and serve this salad; which makes it perfect for entertaining with ease. I start with the port reduction because that can keep in the fridge for a few days or even up to a week. Port wine is a dessert wine and is on the sweeter side so you don’t need to add any sugar to it when reducing. And it won’t thicken up quite as much as a balsamic vinegar reduction will but it will turn into a delicious, light syrupy consistency if you go with the low & slow reduction method (this is where my Le Cruset enameled sauce pan comes in handy) and then take it off the stove when you have about 1/4 cup or a little less left and then refrigerate it. With that part done you can move onto the beets.
I roast the baby beets (the really tiny, cute ones) in foil packets , already peeled, with a little fresh thyme, olive oil, and salt and pepper. I create one foil packet for the red beets and one for the golden yellow beets because the red beets tend to want to bleed all over the golden beets and you want to preserve that beautiful color. The exact roasting time will depend on the size of your beets but mine took about 30 minutes. Remember they will continue to cook a bit as they cool. Once cool enough to handle you can discard the thyme and refrigerate (again in separate containers) until ready to use. A day ahead is fine.
That leaves us with only the shallots to fry and the salad to assemble. I fry shallots quite often and have tried it several different ways. Like anything fried, it’s really best fresh out of the oil but they also hold up just fine for an hour or two left out at room temperature. Don’t cover them or they will get soggy. And don’t forget to lightly salt them straight from the oil. That makes all the difference. As with the port reduction you don’t want to cook the shallots at too high of a temp or they will burn instead of turning a nice golden brown. I don’t use a thermometer but I know when I see a shimmer in the oil that it’s hot and then I usually turn the heat down to medium to keep the oil from getting too hot as I cook them (but I have a gas stove and it gets really hot quickly). Fry the shallots in batches so you don’t over crowd the pan.
Assembly is easy. Throw a little spinach down on the plate and then halve the beets, which should make them about bite sized if they are small. Place an equal amount of red and golden beets on each plate and top with chopped walnuts, blue cheese, and avocado (if using) . Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over each salad and then drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, top with the crispy shallots and then drizzle the port reduction over the tops and around the sides.
- 2 bunches baby beets (1 red and 1 golden), approximately 6 small beets total
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves
- 1 cup Tawny port
- 1 whole large shallot bulb or 2 halves, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces (any small will burn)
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 4 Tablespoons good quality blue cheese (Point Reyes, recommended)
- 1/2 avocado (optional), cubed right before serving so it doesn't brown
- 4 Tablespoons walnuts, chopped
- 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 fresh lemon
- Salt & Pepper
- In a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan (enameled preferred) bring the 1 cup Port wine to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer. Reduce for about 20-22 minutes or until you have a little less than 1/4 cup. Remove from heat and let cool. Cover and refrigerate.
- Preheat the oven to 425. Place two equal sized pieces of foil on the counter. Wash and peel the outside skin of the beets and place the red ones in center of one and the yellow in the other. Salt and pepper the beets, drizzle with 1 Tablespoon of oil divided amongst the two sheets. Add the thyme sprigs and fold over the sides of the foil to create a pouch. Roast for approximately 30 minutes or until tender. Let cool and discard the thyme.
- In a small sauce pan heat the 1/3 cup of canola oil to a shimmer. Add in the sliced shallots a couple at a time so as not to over crowd the pan. Cook until gold brown and remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel. Season with salt and then continue until all the shallots are cooked.
- On the plate place the spinach. Slice the baby beets in half and put a few on each plate. Top with the avocado, walnuts, and blue cheese. Squeeze fresh lemon evenly across both salads. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Top with the crispy shallots and then drizzle the port reduction on top and around the plate.