Saturday, June 23, 2012

Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad with Chèvre, Spring Herbs and Coffee Soil

Last year, Chris and I had lunch at Volt, the Frederick, Md., restaurant from Top Chef runner-up Bryan Voltaggio. It was an amazing meal, ranking among the best restaurant experiences we had last year.

Although all the food was good, the most unforgettable dish was my starter: a beet salad beautifully composed to resemble a vegetable garden, complete with coffee "soil." With many of the ingredients from that dish available to me at the farmers market, I decided it would be a fun challenge to see if I could create something similar.

Of course, Voltaggio's dish was a lot more complicated than mine, but I felt the essential elements were roasted beets and carrots, the coffee soil, radishes, goat cheese, some seasonal herbs and a balsamic vinaigrette.

For the coffee soil, I started with this recipe, cut it in half and substituted hazelnuts, since I think they have an earthier flavor than macadamia. Even cutting it in half produced way more than I needed for two salads, so I plan to use the rest for something else (perhaps as topping for mint ice cream).

I used a combination of purple and yellow beets. The yellow beets were a bunch in varying sizes. After roasting, I left the little ones whole, while slicing the larger yellow and purple ones. For the carrots, I used baby carrots--the kind that still have the carrot tops attached, not the little bagged pellets cut from larger carrots. The most delicate part of the carrot tops also went into the dish as one of its herbs (I discarded the tougher stems and used only the leafy fronds).

My farmers market had a rather unusual radish: the French breakfast radish, which is long and slender instead of round like a typical radish. It's a bit milder too, although there's still a bit of peppery bite. To honor its shape, instead of slicing across the radishes, I used a vegetable peeler to make long, thin strips.

I wanted microgreens, but my market didn't have them, so instead I cut little pieces off of pea shoots. I also used some snipped chives and carrot fronds for spring color. The cheese I selected was Cypress Grove's Humboldt Fog Chèvre, a soft domestic goat cheese.

Lastly, for the dressing, I kept it simple with reduced balsamic vinaigrette made with honey, a really good extra-virgin olive oil (McEvoy Ranch), and salt and pepper.

As lovely as this dish is to look at, the good news is that it tastes really good too. A nice surprise was how the reduced balsamic vinegar mixed nicely with the coffee soil, creating a sweet, earthy, pungent flavor with a granular texture.

Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad with Chèvre, Spring Herbs and Coffee Soil
Inspired by "Spring Garden" by Bryan Voltaggio, Volt

Serves 2

8-10 beets, a mix of sizes (I used 2 large purple, 2 medium yellow, and 5 small yellow), if beet greens are attached, cut to leave about 1 inch of the stems attached.
8 baby carrots, sliced in half (delicate frond tops reserved)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup coffee soil (see recipe below)
5 oz. soft goat cheese (chèvre)
2 french breakfast radishes, shaved thinly (may use regular radishes)
1/4 cup of tender pea shoots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp. snipped fresh chives

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. honey
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Divide beets into groups by size. Wrap each group in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet and roast until tender when pierced with a fork (for my beets, I did 45 minutes for the small ones, 60 minutes for the medium ones, and 70 minutes for the large ones). Once cooled, use your fingers to peel the beets and discard the peels. Slice the medium and large beets into 1/2-inch thick slices.

2. Toss carrots with 2 tbsp. olive oil, sprinkle with salt and place in a small roasting pan. Roast at 400 F for about 30-35 minutes (I did it alongside the beets).

3. To make the dressing, bring balsamic vinegar to boil in a small frying pan or saucepan. Boil for about 5 minutes, until reduced to a syrupy consistency. Remove from heat. In a large bowl, whisk together reduced vinegar, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper

4. To compose each salad, sprinkle 1/4 cup of coffee soil on plate. Divide goat cheese into small pieces and arrange evenly on top of soil. Then arrange roasted beets and carrots. Place radish shavings on top of radishes (I tried to make them look like flowers). Sprinkle with pea shoots, carrot fronds and chives. Finally, drizzle each salad with half of the vinaigrette.

Coffee Soil
Adapted from Coffee Soil, Tyson Cole and Jessica Dupuy, Uchi: The Cookbook by way of

2 /14 oz. hazelnuts
2 1/4 oz. sugar
1/4 oz. cocoa powder
3/4 oz. finely ground decaffeinated coffee
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 oz. flour
3 tbsp. melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Toast hazelnuts over medium-low heat in a frying pan until fragrant. Dump nuts onto a kitchen towel, fold towel over nuts and rub to remove skins. Once cooled, grind nuts in a food processor until fine.

3. Combine ground hazelnuts with all other ingredients except butter in a food processor and process until well combined. Dump mixture into a large bowl, pour melted butter over dry ingredients, and stir until well combined.

4. Spread mixture out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, making a thin layer. Bake for 12 minutes. Once cooled, use a spoon to crush mixture into a powdery "soil." Transfer to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator.


  1. This salad was amazing. Perhaps the best I've ever eaten. It tastes as good as it looks. Wow wow wow.

  2. Do you serve this with the carrots and beets at room temperature?

    1. Yes, they were room temperature or thereabout. I let them cool after roasting before peeling but they weren't refrigerated before serving. If you were doing the roasting in advance and refrigerated them overnight, I think the salad would be fine if they were a little cool.