Here’s a free art history lesson to go with a wonderful salad. The original version of carpaccio, paper-thin slices of beef drizzled with a pale mayonnaise, has been on the menu of Harry’s Bar in Venice for almost fifty years. The dish is named for the Venetian painter, who sometimes juxtaposed red and white to dramatic effect. Nowadays, anything thinly sliced is dubbed carpaccio, although I bet the painter himself would recognize the magenta-red beets against the white pears as his particular style. A sprinkle of sharp Gorgonzola contrasts the sweet beets and pears.
- 3 medium beets, greens discarded
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing on beets
- 2 ripe pears, such as Comice or Anjou
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 ounces Gorgonzola dolce, crumbled (about ¾ cup)
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts, toasted (see Note, page XXX)
- 4 teaspoons minced fresh mint
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- Scrub the beets under cold running water and pat them dry. Rub them lightly with the oil. Wrap each beet tightly in aluminum foil and place them on a baking sheet. Bake until the beets are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on their size. Unwrap the beets and let cool until warm. Slip off the skins. Cover and refrigerate the beets until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
- Core the pears, but do not peel them. Cut lengthwise into very thin slices about 1/16 inch thick. Cut the beets crosswise into rounds about 1/16 inch thick.
- Whisk the lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil.
- For each serving, using one-fourth of the beets and pears, alternate the slices in a large circle on a dinner plate. Drizzle the lemon dressing over each, top with a scattering of the Gorgonzola, and a sprinkle of the walnuts and mint. Serve immediately.
Note: To toast walnuts, spread the nuts out on a small rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 350ºF, stirring occasionally, until toasted, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely before using.