When I was in Montana I spent time with a friend whose passionate talk of cooking inspired me to branch out in my own cooking. Honestly I always want to branch out, yet I find myself using the same seasonings & flavor combinations.
It pretty much boils down to intimidation. I've had some big failures, like the time Sara & I spent hours making sweet potato gnocchi in a Gorgonzola sauce & it came out awful. Soooooo terrible.
So, one thing I have been intimidated by is a Balsamic Reduction. It's this thing that chefs insert into a menu flippantly, as if it is as easy as boiling water- but I had always been afraid to make it. I wasn't even really sure what it is exactly.
Turns out, yes it is almost as easy as boiling water because as the name suggests it is simply balsamic that is gently simmered down into a thick & oh my so very delicious syrup.
In fact, I may have to go buy some strawberry or vanilla ice cream to drizzle the rest of my balsamic on.
Essentially, this salad was created from the desire to eat some beets that were in my fridge & make a balsamic reduction. It has now gone to the top of my list of favorite salads. Okay, I don't really have a favorite salad list, but I probably should because I can be really passionate about a good salad. Aren't I cool?
To make this salad you need:
Balsamic vinegar reduction (make this first or even days ahead- recipe below*)
Butter Lettuce (or whatever kind you want)
a high heat oil- I used safflower
salt & pepper
Balsamic Vinegar Reduction:
This changes your average balsamic vinegar into a rich & complex sweet & tangy syrup.
Pour at least a cup of balsamic vinegar in a sauce pan & set on high heat (the larger the pan the quicker you can make it) As soon as the bubbles start, but before boiling, turn it down to a low simmer. Stir it often & as it begins to thicken up you will want to stir it even more often. Also, you may want to turn it down to the lowest of the lows as far as heat goes so that you don't burn the balsamic. It should take about 10-15 minutes until you get a very molasses like consistency which is perfect. Store at room temperature.
Here's a photo starring the finished reduction & chévre. See how thick it is?
Next, peel & thickly slice your beets (at least half an inch). Oil both sides & sprinkle with salt & pepper. Grill on a low heat flipping once halfway through. I think mine took about 15 minutes total. You can also cut them up & sauté them or bake them in the oven. I tend to like to grill everything in the summer so... yeah. You can do this ahead as well but, I do think that the warm beats that slightly melt the Chévre really add to the deliciousness factor.
While those are cooking, hand chop your garlic into bits. Sprinkle with salt & sauté over medium heat in oil until they are golden brown but not at all burnt. Remove them from the pan & put them on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
Now you have all your components. Assemble your salad by cutting up the beets into bite sized pieces & layering on a bed of lettuce. Sprinkle with as much chévre as your heart desires, top with crunchy garlic bits & drizzle with balsamic reduction. Salt & pepper if you like.
P.S. If pears were in season those would have gone perfectly with the salad so you might want to try that too.