Artslandia at the Performance
May / June 2015
“Other restaurants and hotels were pulling back their arts support, and arts groups were struggling,” says Machado. “I knew Nel Centro’s long-term fate would be tied to the performing arts groups downtown. We wouldn’t make it unless they made it, so we did a lot more than just feed people before and after shows. We offered restaurant patron programs, donor receptions, anything the arts groups needed.”
Warm Ricotta and Beet Salad
Chef David Machado
“Nel Centro” is Italian for “in the center,” and the perfect description for the restaurant David Machado opened in the heart of Portland’s theatre district at the depths of the nation’s recession. “It was a hard time to start something,” Machado notes, but what seemed like a risky business decision was actually the restaurant-business veteran and Jazz Festival board president’s calculated vote of confidence in the performing arts.
“Other restaurants and hotels were pulling back their arts support, and arts groups were struggling,” says Machado. “I knew Nel Centro’s long-term fate would be tied to the performing arts groups downtown. We wouldn’t make it unless they made it, so we did a lot more than just feed people before and after shows. We offered restaurant patron programs, donor receptions, anything the arts groups needed.” As the arts groups have revived, refilling the nearby Keller, Lincoln Hall, Portland’5 and the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall with eager patrons, Nel Centro has thrived.
1/2 pound ricotta
1/2 pound large red beets
1/2 pound large gold or chiogga beets
3 large oranges, either cara cara or blood oranges, skin and pith removed, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 cup baby arugula
1/4 cup citrus vinaigrette (recipe below)
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted
Salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread hazelnuts out on a baking sheet in an even layer, place in oven, and toast until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, lightly crush hazelnuts with the flat side of a knife.
Scrub beets under cold running water to remove any dirt. Lightly coat beets with olive oil and place in a large baking dish, cover with foil and bake until beets are tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 1 hour.
Remove from oven and cool at room temperature. Slice both ends of the beets. Gently rub a damp towel over skins to remove. Cut into 2 inch pieces and set aside.
Turn oven broiler to high. Place ricotta into a small glass baking dish, season liberally with salt and fresh cracked pepper, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Place under broiler until a deep, golden curst is formed and cheese is warmed through, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine beets, orange segments and baby arugula. Toss with citrus vinaigrette, and season to taste with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
Mound the tossed salad in the center of a chilled plate, top with warmed arugula and garnish with toasted hazelnuts.
Citrus Vinaigrette for Beet Salad
Makes 1 Quart
1/2 cup champagne vinegar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 each large shallot, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine vinegar, orange and lemon juice, minced shallot and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil until fully incorporated. Cover with either plastic wrap or a tight fitting lid and refrigerate. Store for up to 2 weeks.