Monday, March 22, 2010

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

A few weeks ago, Louisa and I paid a visit to Frankie's Spuntino on Clinton Street, where we had an absolutely fantastic meal. Ever since, I've become obsessed with recreating two of the dishes: cavatelli with hot sausage and browned butter, and the roasted beets with avocado and balsamic vinegar.

Others have come before me where the cavatelli is concerned (and I'll be offering my version shortly), but I wasn't able to find any versions of the beet and avocado salad anywhere online. The salad is deceptively simple and relies heavily on the inclusion of superlative ingredients - the best beets, avocado and balsamic vinegar that you can find.

That last one means you'll have to shell out a bit - you need a vinegar that's been aged long enough to become thick, sweet and complex. The young, sour versions just will not do. Not to worry, though - the cash will be more than worth it. You only need a tiny bit, and the flavor is incomparable.

The salad combines two slightly different textures - the tender, toothsome beets and the creamy avocado - and three delicate flavors to create a distinctly refreshing and exciting dish. I tried to stick to the three ingredients in my version, but ended up needing a little help to bring out the depth and excitement I remembered in the Frankie's version.

Luckily, I'll soon be able to see how close I was to the truth: Frankie's Spuntino is coming out with an eponymous cookbook in early June. Pre-order? Don't mind if I do.

Frankie's Roasted Beet & Avocado Salad

4 small beets
Olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 ripe avocados, halved and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
Very good balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Clean and trim the beets. Spread a piece of foil on a cookie sheet, place beets on the foil, and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Fold the foil to form a packet, and place the packet (on the cookie sheet) in the oven. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the beets are tender when poked with a fork. Remove pack from oven and set aside to cool.

Once the beets are cool to the touch, peel them and slice them into 1/3 inch wedges. Place the wedges in a medium bowl and toss with the lemon juice, a bit of salt and pepper and the cinnamon.

Leaving the lemon juice behind, divide the beet wedges between four plates or bowls and arrange them in a starburst pattern. Add the avocado, building on the starburst. Sprinkle each salad with a bit of salt and pepper, then drizzle generously with the balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately.

Serves four.

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