I've talked about the beet salad before on this blog. But I thought I'd bring it up again today because it is my Valentine's favorite salad and because, for their color, beets are frequently a feature in the Valentine-themed meal. And if you tend toward those ways, you could slice your beets and punch out little red hearts. As this is not my way, I'll just talk about the salad. The basic components are roasted beets, greens, nuts, a creamy cheese and a tart vinaigrette.
I'm going to leave it to your googling abilities if you don't know how to roast beets. I will say they're simple to do but you do need to scrub them well. Also, I've taken to peeling them, roasting first under foil, and then removing the foil toward the end so they can caramelize. They're even sweeter this way (but be careful they don't burn.) But just doing them in foil and slipping the skins off after is the easiest and gives good results. For Valentine's Day, you might want to stick with red. But I like to use different colors of beets. Whatever you do, don't mix the red with the others. Oh, and don't worry about stained hands, it comes off. And your lover will see the pains you've gone through to make them this wonderful salad.
Do what you like here. I usually use spinach. But if you want elegant, Frisee' is the way. It has a little bitterness and a great texture. It also looks fabulous.
You could do walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts... those would be my top choices. You need to toast them. I like them whole, but you could chop them a little too.
The Creamy Cheese:
In our house, we like fresh goat cheese (chevre) crumbled on top. But often in restaurants, they'll use a blue cheese, like a Gorgonzola, Cabrales or Maytag. (Make sure the cheese has sat on the counter for a little while, so it isn't too cold) For a fancier dish, you can make a little goat cheese cake, coated in breadcrumbs and pan-fried till toasty and warm. If that doesn't say Valentine, I don't know what does.
For a salad with a sweet component, I like a white balsamic vinegar in my vinaigrette. Regular balsamic or champagne vinegar is also a good choice. And in a pinch, I think a cider vinegar would work. It might be interesting to play around with raspberry too.
For the oil, I like a grapeseed or canola or a really light olive oil. I wouldn't do First pressed extra virgin here. Too much peppery flavor - you want neutral.
For this vinaigrette, you'll also need some minced shallot.
The basic formula for a vinaigrette is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. I like mine tart so I rarely use 3 parts oil, especially with the kinds of vinegars I've suggested. Try 1:2 and taste it. Start with your vinegar, add some salt and a grind of pepper, your minced shallot. Mix it all together and start to drizzle in the oil. Taste along the way until you find the right balance of tart. You might need to add more salt.
Cut your roasted beets into attractive pieces: quarter, slices, hearts. Toss them in a tiny bit of the vinaigrette. Don't mix red beets with beets of other colors or you will have all red beets.
In another small bowl, give your greens a little salt and toss them with a TINY amount of vinaigrette, just to coat.
A white plate will best reflect your efforts toward making this salad. Put a small bunch of dressed greens in the middle of the plate, arrange your beets attractively around or nestled in the greens. Sprinkle on some toasted nuts, and crumble your cheese on top. Or if you've make a goat cheese cake, seductively prop it up on one side of the greens as if to say "Come and get me, baby" ;) Happy Valentine's Day!