This salad has a fascinating combination of textures and flavors. The beets, with their sweet and hard bite, contrast the smooth, mildly nutty and creamy bite of the avocado. The orange powered creamy dressing, which uses both the zest and the juice, marries both ingredients beautifully. It is so tasty, I sometimes feel like eating it on its own! The crumbled tangy and lightly salty queso fresco and crisp walnuts make it a show-stopping ensemble.
It is a colorful and very elegant salad that makes for a stunning first course.
Tip: You can make the creamy dressing ahead of time, as well as cook the beets ahead. Assemble right before eating.
1 pound beets
1 large ripe avocado, halved, pitted, meat scooped out, cut into bite size pieces of about 1”
¼ cup Mexican crema, or Latin style cream, Crème fraiche or sour cream
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of kosher or sea salt, add more to taste
Zest of an orange
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup crumbled queso fresco (or substitute farmer’s cheese, goat cheese or a mild feta)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Cut off greens and most of the stems from the beets, leaving about 1-inch. Don’t scrub or peel the beets. Rinse them off, place them in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium low to keep at a gentle simmer and cook until tender, for about 30 minutes. Drain. Once cool enough to handle, peel the beets and cut into bite-sized pieces of about 1-inch.
In a medium bowl, combine the Mexican crema with the salt and pepper.
In a small saucepan, pour the orange juice along with the apple cider vinegar, the honey and orange zest. Place over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Liquid should have reduced to about 1/3 of a cup. Pour into the crema mixture and combine.
Divide the beets and avocado pieces in salad plates. Drizzle orange cream dressing all over the top. Garnish with the walnuts, queso fresco and chives.