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Roasted Beets, Toasted Walnuts and Fresh Mint Drizzled with an Orange-Balsamic Syrup

Mariel here. A few weeks ago on our Facebook page, I posted some pictures from our inaugural installment of Cookbook Club, which was hosted by a friend of mine who also happens to be the taste-test editor at Epicurious. For our very first gathering, we plucked recipes from Rozanne Gold‘s Radically Simple, which combines intensely-flavored ingredients in odd-duck pairings that blend beautifully – for the most part. As the name implies, all of Rozanne’s dishes are a snap to prepare, which was particularly important when doling out recipes to 15 cooks with a variety of different culinary comfort zones. I was charged with creating a Rhubarb-Ginger Compote that was sinfully easy and stunningly delicious, but unfortunately, WAY too pricey for Feast. In NYC, the rhubarb set me back a breathtaking $8.99 per pound – and the recipe required 2-lbs of the tart stuff, as well as candied ginger and red currant jam, which also skew on the expensive side. All in all, a basic compote cost me upwards of $35 – which is a little too pricey for an ice cream topping, in my opinion. That being said, it was a real treat. Other highlights from the night included Rozanne’s Charred Broccoli Tossed with Chilies & Garlic and Brussels Sprouts with Medjool Dates. The winner of the evening was an unassuming medley comprised of Beets, Balsamic Syrup, Mint and Walnuts. It was simple and elegant and packed a powerful wallop of flavor. I’m a beet freak and I can tell you that this was the best rendition I’ve ever tasted – at home or in a restaurant. When I recreated it in my own kitchen, I opted to tweak the balsamic syrup by sloshing in a few hits of freshly-squeezed orange juice, which is one of my favorite beety seasonings. I also crumbled in blue cheese and skipped the canned beets in favor of the oven-roasted variety. While I added a few personal flourishes, this is Rozanne’s recipe through and through and I thank her for bringing it into my life. As for the next Cookbook Club? We’ll be taking on Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi so stay tuned. Interested in starting your own Cookbook Club but aren’t sure how to get the ball rolling? Email us at feastonthecheap[at]gmail[dot]com and we’ll clue you into a few key tips.

Roasted Beets, Toasted Walnuts and Fresh Mint Drizzled with an Orange-Balsamic Syrup Serves 4 as a side dish Adapted from Radically Simple by Rozanne Gold

Ingredients: 8 medium-size beets – $4.75 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted – stock 2 big garlic cloves, smashed and divided – stock ½-cup fresh mint, chopped finely – $0.99 ½-cup crumbled blue cheese – $1.87 ½-cup Balsamic vinegar – stock 3 Tablespoons of orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed, you’ll need one medium orange) – $0.89 1 Tablespoon of olive oil – stock Grand total assuming well-stocked kitchen: $8.50 Cost per serving: $2.12 Directions: 1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Trim the greens off of beets leaving about ¼-inch of the stems. Wash and scrub. Place beets in a casserole dish filled with about a ¼-inch of water, cover tightly with tinfoil and roast for about 40 minutes, or until the beets are punctured easily with the tip of a knife. 2. Cool beets in the covered dish for about 10-15 minutes, then cut away the stems and slip off the skins. Roughly chop the beets into big, bite-size chunks and transfer to a large bowl. 3. Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in an ungreased skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant (stir frequently since nuts go from toasted to burnt fairly quickly). This takes about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. 4. In the same skillet, heat the Balsamic vinegar, OJ and one smashed garlic clove over medium-high heat. Boil until the liquid reduces by about half (approximately 4 minutes). Give it a good stir occasionally. Set aside. 5. In a small dish, combine the olive oil with the remaining smashed garlic clove. 5. Toss the beets with the Balsamic-OJ syrup and then toss again with the olive oil/garlic brew. Right before you’re ready to serve the dish, add the walnuts, blue cheese and mint to the beets. Do this at the last minute since beets inevitably stain everything they touch – it just makes for a prettier presentation. Enjoy!