Whether you roast the beets for this Roasted Beet Salad on a campfire grill, barbecue, or in the oven, they become sweet and concentrated - a perfect base for a rich port wine dressing and a complement of salty feta cheese and toasted walnuts. It's a delicious way to enjoy the humble beet. (Skip to recipe.)
We've still been enjoying some glorious autumn days - just wonderful for a couple more dinners in our Campfire Cooking series. We've been having such fun planning, cooking, and enjoying a different campfire-themed dinner each month.
In September, my cooking friend, Sabina, and I were in our glory with this wonderful harvest feast. We've been finding that a theme seems to naturally present itself to each of our campfire dinner menus, and this one was the Red Thread that ran through it. Every course had something red in it, either from the port wine reduction we made to the natural red colour of the plums in the dessert. September's dinner was a symphony of fall flavours - beets, pears, walnuts, port wine, grapes, onions, plums, whiffs of spices and rich cheeses and wine. The cooking was so much fun outdoors, with all the beautiful fall colours in Sabina's yard and the captivating aromas of a magnificent dinner grilling on the coals.
Campfire Cooking: Harvest Feast Menu
Roasted Beet Salad with Feta, Walnuts, and Port Wine Vinaigrette
Pear, Gorgonzola & Black Rice Risotto
Lamb Shashlik Kebabs with Onions and Grapes, Grilled Carrots with Cumin and Honey, Grilled Brussels Sprouts,
Grilled Plums, Whipped Cream, and Campfire-Griddled Welsh Cakes
First Course: Roasted Beet Salad . . . This was one of the stars of the show. We wrapped sweet red beets in foil and roasted them over the fire to concentrate their natural sugars. We grilled a couple onion halves over the coals til they had a few crisp black grill marks. This gave a sweet smoky char to the salad (and can be replicated by grilling onion slices in a dry skillet over medium-high heat). The beets and onions were tossed with a tangy vinaigrette made of reduced port wine, balsamic vinegar and oil. We arranged the roasted beet salad atop some lovely fresh corn salad still fresh from the garden, and showered it with salty feta cheese crumbles and toasted walnuts. This salad is the sweet taste of autumn on a plate and was my favourite dish of the whole dinner.
Second Course: Pear, Gorgonzola & Black Rice Risotto . . . Glistening Forbidden Black Rice is combined with red wine and onions, and slowly cooked and stirred over the campfire with regular additions of broth. Three flavourful cheeses are melted in - gorgonzola, brie, and parmesan - along with soft and tender grilled pear chunks, which turn this risotto into a creamy delight. Topped with more juicy grilled pear halves and a handful of crunchy toasted walnuts, it became a delight of contrasting textures and balanced flavours. This amazing risotto was a close second to the salad for me in votes for favourite dish.
Main course: Shashlik Lamb Kebabs with Onions and Grapes, Honey and Cumin Grilled Carrots, Grilled Brussels Sprouts . . . We used the recipe in Mark Bittman's 'How to Grill Everything' cookbook for these tasty lamb kebabs marinated in red wine vinegar. The garden carrots were tossed in a bit of olive oil, honey, and cumin and grilled to a sweet char, along with the brussels sprouts just tossed in oil and salt. We reduced a half bottle of port wine down to a few tablespoons. We used some of it to make our port wine vinaigrette for the roasted beet salad, and the rest as a base to make a lovely port wine sauce, combined with puréed grilled onion, balsamic vinegar, oil, and a few seasonings. This sauce was amazing with the kebabs.
Dessert: Grilled Plums, Whipped Cream, and Campfire-Griddled Welsh Cakes . . . Those Welsh Cakes are crispy little biscuit-cookies with tender flaky insides, aromatic with nutmeg and sweet with chewy pops of currants - they are an excellent way to make cookies over the campfire (great for camping, too). Find the recipe here.
Another successful Campfire Cooking dinner. Stay tuned for the next one. (Spoiler alert: It's 'Into the Wild'!)
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Kitchen Frau Notes: The ingredients for this salad can be prepared ahead of time, refrigerated, and assembled at serving time. The beets can be oven-roasted or campfire-roasted up to 3 - 4 days ahead of time, the onions can be charred several days ahead of time, the walnuts toasted ahead of time, and the dressing can also be made several days ahead of time. Then at serving time you just toss it all together.
Roasted Beet Salad with Port Wine Dressing
- 1½ lbs (700gms) beets
- 1 medium onion, red or yellow
- 4 handfuls of mixed baby greens, baby spinach, or baby arugula
- 1 cup (125gms) crumbled feta cheese
- ½ cup (50gms) toasted walnuts
- chopped parsley or dill
for the dressing:
- 1 cup port wine, reduced to 2 tablespoons (or an extra tablespoon balsamic vinegar + 1 tablespoon honey)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) or set a grate over a campfire that has good hot coals or preheat a barbecue grill.
Wrap the beets in tin foil lined with parchment paper. If the beets are large, wrap them individually, if they're smaller wrap 2 to 4 beets together in each parcel. Set the parcels on the grate over the campfire or on a cookie sheet in the oven. Roast until the beets are tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 to 1¼ hours. If roasting the beets over a campfire, turn them occasionally and keep them over the edge of the fire, not directly over the flames.
Cut the onion into pencil thick slices. Keeping the slices intact with the rings together, grill the onion slices in a grill basket over the flames or barbecue grill, or in a dry skillet set over medium-high heat on a stove burner, until they are charred and blackened in spots. Carefully flip them to char the other side, too. This will take 5 - 7 minutes per side.
Toast the walnuts in a skillet set over the flames or grill, or on a baking sheet in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden and fragrant.
While the beets are roasting, make the dressing: Put the port wine into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until it has reduced to 2 tablespoons. This can be done on the stovetop or also on the campfire or grill. Combine the reduced port wine, balsamic vinegar, oil, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl or cup and whisk vigorously until blended and slightly thickened.
To assemble the salad: Peel the roasted beets and trim the ends. Cut the beets into wedges or slices. Coarsely chop the grilled onion slices. Toss the beet wedges and onions with the prepared port wine dressing.
Arrange a handful of salad greens on each of 4 salad plates. Top each with a quarter of the beet salad. Sprinkle each salad with a quarter of the crumbled feta cheese and the toasted walnuts. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley or dill.
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