- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Roasting enhances vegetables because it concentrates the flavors. It’s a wonderful cooking technique for any vegetable that isn’t mostly water. Lettuce, for example, isn’t a good candidate for the roasting pan.

But roasting is particularly worthwhile for vegetables with a high sugar content, including beets and carrots. They develop a delicious caramelized crust and buttery interior.

This cooking style may seem best suited for winter, when a warm kitchen is just what you want, but there’s an advantage to roasting vegetables in August. Freshly harvested vegetables are often sweeter than those that have been sitting in storage. New crops may also be faster cooking, so you heat the kitchen for a shorter period of time. In fact, it takes no longer to roast beets than it does to boil them on the stove.

To save time throughout the week, I recommend roasting a full pan of vegetables. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for several days.

One of my favorite combinations is a salad of roast beets and salmon on a bed of greens. Start the beets about 40 minutes in advance. Then add the salmon and roast both ingredients at the same time. If you want to get fancy, look for sweet golden beets at your farmers market.

Pack this light entree for a picnic, adding a crusty bread and sliced peaches soaked in amaretto. And don’t come home until the kitchen cools down.

Roast beet and salmon salad

2 medium red beets

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 12-ounce salmon fillet

2 cups mache or mixed salad greens

1 medium tomato, cored and diced

Basil vinaigrette dressing (recipe follows)

Wash beets well under cold water. Trim off the roots and any leaves. Halve lengthwise. Place beets in a shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle with oil and season lightly with salt and pepper to taste.

Roast in a preheated 425-degree oven for 40 minutes, or until almost tender.

Remove from oven and push beets to the side of the pan. Add the salmon fillet, drizzle with oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Return to oven; roast for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the fish is completely cooked. Remove from oven. When beets are cool enough to handle, peel and dice. Remove salmon skin.

To assemble salad, place the mache or mixed salad greens on a platter. Arrange salmon in the center of the mache.

Sprinkle beets and tomato around the salmon. Either drizzle on the basil vinaigrette dressing or pass on the side.

Makes 2 servings.

BASIL VINAIGRETTE DRESSING:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

Salt and pepper

Combine olive oil, vinegar, basil, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl, and mix well.

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