beet, orange and baby kale salad

It's the week before Thanksgiving (already)! I'll be posting my favorite holiday recipes here all week, so be sure to check in.

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Let's be real. Thanksgiving dinner isn't about salad, and it isn't about to be any time soon. It's about dark meat, crisp skin, gravy made from golden turkey drippings, sinful mashed potatoes, stuffing laden with carbs and duck fat, pie you couldn't possibly fit in your stomach but manage to anyway, and happy, gluttony-induced food comas.

But let's say there was a salad in this dinner, if only to add color to your inevitable Instagram shot or justify seconds and thirds of everything else with its mere presence. This salad might as well look nice. While we're at it, it might as well be delicious, too. Hell, maybe, if it should be so bold, it could even be healthy.

(Don't worry. There'll be plenty of pie to make up for Hypothetical Salad.)

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The key to making this pretty salad is to find beets and oranges that are around the same size--or even better, beets that are slightly smaller than your oranges, since the oranges shrink considerably once they're segmented.

About that--while I would love to insert a detailed photo sequence here depicting how to perfectly segment an orange, I have only two (sticky) hands. So here's a quick video from Michael Symon instead:

More than anything, a sharp knife will serve you well here--a blunt edge will bruise and tear your orange, and before you know it, your mangled little segments will be drowning in orange juice. Please be nice to your segments.

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The beets are roasted (technically steamed or braised, but "roasted beets" sounds better, doesn't it?) in the same way you see here, tossed in some olive oil, vinegar, plenty of salt and pepper and covered tightly in foil until tender. You could easily do this a day ahead--in fact, the beets will taste better if they sit in their cooking liquid overnight.

The dressing uses orange juice that (hopefully) wasn't scraped off your cutting board and some tarragon, which has a delicate licorice-y flavor that plays so well with oranges and beets. Tangy goat cheese and nutty pepitas round out the salad with a little fat (it is Thanksgiving, after all).

I used this baby kale because it's a huge time saver compared to using regular kale. The leaves are more tender, but still hardier than other baby salad greens (I'm looking at you, spinach). It's also pretty. But if you can't find it, use whatever salad greens are available to you.

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Click here for more OOT Thanksgiving recipes!

Baby Kale Salad with Oranges and Roasted Beets
Recipe courtesy of Out of Thyme
Yield: 6 servings | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Total Time: 2 hours

2 medium beets (*see note)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium oranges
1/4 cup raw pepitas
5 ounces baby kale
3.5 ounces (about 1/4 cup) goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup Orange-Tarragon Dressing, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash the beets thoroughly with a brush and wipe them to make sure the dirt is washed off. Cut them in half and lay them in a baking dish large enough to fit them in one layer. Add the olive oil, vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and toss to coat. Cover the baking dish tightly in foil and cook until a paring knife or cake tester can go in and out with no resistance, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Peel back a corner of the foil to let the steam escape, and set aside until cool enough to handle. Rub the skins off the beets with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel (might want to wear gloves for this). Slice each half into 1/2-inch wedges to mimic the shape of an orange segment. If making close to dinner, spread the wedges onto a baking sheet and stick it in the freezer until cool, about 15 minutes. If doing this ahead of time, refrigerate the beets in an airtight container covered in its cooking liquid.

Segment the oranges (refer to video above) over a small bowl to catch any juices. Squeeze the remaining orange skeleton to get 1/4 cup of orange juice and set it aside - it'll be used for the dressing.

Toast the pepitas in a small, dry saucepan over low heat, shaking the pan occasionally to flip them over, until fragrant and lightly golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer them to a bowl so they don't burn in the still-hot pan.

Add the kale to large bowl, season generously with salt and toss (seasoned greens + seasoned dressing = seasoned salad). Add most of the beets, orange segments, pepitas and goat cheese and toss, slowly adding the dressing to taste. Transfer the salad to your fancy serving bowl and top with the remaining beets, orange segments, pepitas and goat cheese. Pretty!

Orange-Tarragon Dressing:
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup reserved orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 sprigs tarragon
1/2 cup olive oil

Add the vinegar, reserved orange juice and salt to a spouted liquid measuring cup. Run your fingers down the stems of the tarragon sprigs to remove the leaves, then chop the leaves finely and add them to the other ingredients. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified.

Yield: A scant cup. Save leftover dressing in the refrigerator for tomorrow's hypothetical salad.

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