I was impressed with the rich Mongolian beef. I was impressed with the decadent desserts. But mostly I was impressed with the elegant, flavorful Roasted Beet Salad. If you recall from my Quinoa Pilaf Post, my sister and I took our kids who were on spring break on a Carnival Cruise getaway. It was kind of a last minute deal and our expectations weren’t exactly sky high, but we were all excited.
The weather forecast was lousy – 100% chance of rain the first two days with lots of wind. Not awesome for a cruise. After a less than pleasant drive through driving wind and rain (yes, it really was Arizona and California during spring break. Go figure), we embarked (I love using boating terminology… ’cause it sounds cool!) and headed straight for the food (well, after a brief stop at the bar… priorities, you know.) What a spread! I’m sure many of you have pre-conceived notions of what cruise food is like – a cattle call round up for 3,000 plus people. Trays and troughs of “grub.” Well, I’m here to enlighten you. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There were beautifully plated meat and cheese trays, including wonderful paper-thin prosciutto, tender baby Swiss, all kinds of spicy salami, smoked salmon, and a healthy dose of Italian olives. And that was just to start. There was everything from juicy chicken thighs to rich stewed beef to flaky fish fillets topped with a light tomato relish. The strategically placed and elegantly displayed dessert tables included thick fudge, light pastries, and all kinds of cakes and meringues. That was lunch.
The formal dining room pulled out all the stops – tender broiled salmon with capers, perfectly seasoned steak tacos, massively huge meat and veggie lasagna, prime rib with luscious au jus… they were all at our fingertips. Creme brulee. Molten chocolate lava cake. Tiramisu. You get the idea. All of it delicious. All of it prepared perfectly.
But what impressed me most of all was the Roasted Beet Salad. I know… I know. Roasted Beet Salad? Drowning in a sea of fabulous food, it was the Roasted Beet Salad that grabbed my attention? Yep. Maybe it’s because I’ve made all of these things, and I know how difficult it is to make that particular dish correctly. If the beets aren’t roasted long enough, they taste like, well… dirt. If they’re roasted too long, you’re left with a big messy bright fuchsia pile of mush (that’s bad). But if you want a tender, soft but not mushy, slightly sweet bowl of beautiful and tasty beets, they must be perfect. And the Roasted Beet Salad on our Carnival Cruise was just that – perfect! One bite and I knew the chef had pulled out all the stops. That type of perfection doesn’t happen by accident.
So I’m on a quest to match that flavorful, sweet-savory, tender mouthful of awesomeness that I had on our cruise. I’ve included red and golden beets, crisp fennel, a bit of shallot, walnuts, crumbled blue cheese, and a honey-balsamic drizzle. The key is in the roasting and peeling. It’s really not that difficult, but it requires you to pay attention. The beets need to roast anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on freshness and size. Just make sure to start checking them after 45 minutes. When they are easily pierced with a fork, they’re perfect. Remove the beets and let cool for about 20 minutes, then run them under cool water while you slip the skin off. It should come off very easily at this point. The rest is easy. And the result, impressive.
A big shout out to Carnival Cruise for making our cruise a fantastic experience. Not only were my expectations greatly exceeded, the bar is now set at a whole new level! Despite very rocky waters, the captain did a fantastic job avoiding the weather the best he could. The staff took great care to ensure the passengers were comfortable. And I had the pleasure of meeting the hotel manager, Gunasekaran Chellam (please don’t ever ask me to pronounce that…), who clearly wants each and every guest to have a fantastic time and a wonderful trip. We did! He was warm and genuine – very personable. There are many other fabulous foods (like everything at The Taste Bar tapas station!), drinks (don’t even get me started on the drinks, but I highly recommend the drink package), and services I haven’t had the chance to mention. I’ll save those for another time. And hopefully another Carnival Cruise ship! Enjoy the Roasted Beet Salad. It’s elegant, healthy, and will impress most everyone.
Here are a few snaps from my phone: