Bryant Terry's Sweet Sweetback's Salad with Roasted Beet Vinaigrette

Life & Love | Blair Bedford | 02/06/2012 | 02:00 PM EST

This salad is Baadassssss

Inspired by the 1970's independent cult classic Sweet Sweetback's Baadassssss Song, Bryant Terry's beet salad of the same name will have you shouting: "I'm Black and I'm Proud!" The chef/activist/author blends the right ingredients---including an out of this world vinaigrette--- for this culinary ode to the film's director Melvin Van Peebles.

Sweet Sweetback's Salad Serves 6, as adapted from The Root

2 cups raw walnut halves

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons and 1/2 teaspoon agave syrup

1/4 cup organic raw cane sugar

4 medium beets, scrubbed and tops trimmed but root tails intact Coarse sea salt Extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard Freshly ground white pepper

3 large bunches arugula, trimmed and roughly chopped (6 to 7 cups)

The Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Spread the walnuts on a large baking sheet and toast for 6 minutes, stirring halfway through the cooking. Remove from oven and cool.

3. Transfer walnuts to a sieve and, holding the sieve over the sink, rub the walnuts against the wire until the skins loosen and fall off.

4. Remove the walnuts to a large mixing bowl, combine with two tablespoons of olive oil, and stir until thoroughly coated. Add two tablespoons of the agave syrup and stir until thoroughly coated, then add the sugar and stir until thoroughly coated.

5. Warm a large heavy cast-iron skillet to medium-high. Add the walnuts, scraping the bowl to remove everything, and stir constantly until the walnuts are fragrant and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 1 1/2 minutes.

6. Transfer walnuts to parchment paper and quickly spread out, separating them with a fork and a spoon. Set aside to cool.

7. Combine the beets, 3 quarts cold water, and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium pot over high heat. Boil uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the beets are easily pierced with a knife. Drain. Peel the beets by holding them under cold running water and rubbing their skins off with your fingers or a clean towel.

8. Increase the oven's temperature to 400F.

9. Trim the tails off the bottom of the beets. Reserve two of them for the vinaigrette and compost the others. Cut the beets into 1/4-inch dice. In a medium bowl, toss the diced beets with 4 teaspoons of the olive oil. Transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to ensure even cooking. Remove the beets from the oven, scrape them back into the bowl, and toss with 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Return to the baking sheet and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Set them aside to cool.

10. In a blender, combine the reserved roasted beet tails with the remaining red wine vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon agave syrup, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and white pepper to taste. Blend while slowly pouring in 4 tablespoons olive oil. If needed, add more salt to taste.

11. Place the arugula pieces in a large serving bowl, add the roasted beets on top, and add the glazed walnuts on top of that. Immediately before serving, toss well with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat.

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