Monday, November 10, 2008

Sweet & Savory

"I don't like sweet and savory." -Michael Rouse, amateur food critic

I'm not sure how many times I've heard the quote above. If I had a dollar for every time, well, I could buy a tank of gas - at last month's prices! Tonight, Michael brought out this familiar protest once again, his explanation as to why he does not like a particular dish, in this case a salad of raw beets and Asian pears cut into matchsticks dressed with lemon vinaigrette and topped with feta, mint, and sunflower seeds. And yes, I do realize that someone out there reading this has probably just thought, "What the @$&!? That's a salad!?" Yes, it is a salad - and a darn good one, at that. Don't judge it until you've tried it.

Many are the times I've puzzled over what Michael defines as sweet and savory, and why this partnership is, in his opinion, a dining taboo. The fact is, he has raved about mango chutney (a mix of mango, peppers, and onions) and sweet and sour eggplant relish that I've made in the past. If that's not sweet and savory, what is?

As it turns out, there is a simple answer to this conundrum: cheese. As with many things in life, cheese is the answer. In this case, it refers specifically Michael's aversion to cheese paired with anything hinting at sweetness. This distaste extends to cheesecake (possibly Michael's least favorite dessert), cheddar paired with apples, and Pagliacci's seasonal pear pizza. Although I have seen him make an exception to this rule for baked brie with figs. Hmm...

In this case, Michael did admit that the salad was not terrible, but the combination of feta and tossed with crunchy beet strips cleverly hiding slivers of pear was just not quite his thing. Since we had enough salad left to feed about six more people, however, he valiantly offered to eat some of the leftovers at work tonight. Aw, what a trooper!

And for those of you more adventurous eaters, how about making a little seasonally appropriate beet salad of your own?

The following recipe is courtesy of Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie book:
Cut about four medium large beets (a mix of colors is best - I used chioggia and golden beets, which have the advantage of not staining anything) and two or three pears into matchsticks. Toss with lemon dressing (10 T. olive oil shaken with 3 1/2 T. fresh lemon juice, seasoned with salt and pepper - use what you need and save the rest for other dishes). Top with 7 oz. feta cheese, a handful of sunflower seeds, and a scattering of small mint leaves. Season to taste. Enjoy!

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