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Proscuitto, beets liven up spring salad
The crisped prosciutto in this spring salad, topping the beets and creamy onion dressing, adds a crunch and salty taste but with far less fat than bacon. - photo by LARRY CROWE

Spring Salad with Beets, Prosciutto and Creamy Onion Dressing

Start to finish: 50 minutes
Servings: 6

1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 slices prosciutto (about 2 ounces)
1 bunch beets (about 12 ounces), preferably baby-size, stems and greens removed
1 medium sweet onion, sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
14 cups mixed salad greens

Heat the oven to 400 F. Brush 1/2 teaspoon of the olive oil over a large baking sheet.

Cut the prosciutto into 1- to 1 1/2-inch squares and place on the baking sheet. Brush the top of the prosciutto with another 1/2 teaspoon oil. Bake until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Use a spatula to carefully transfer the prosciutto “chips” to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, place the beets in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, 20 to 30 minutes.

Drain the beets and let stand until cool enough to handle. Trim both ends of the beets and rub off the skins. Cut into wedges.

While the beets are cooking, in a small saucepan over medium-low, combine the onion with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the thyme, salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

Uncover and continue cooking until the onion is very soft and caramelized, another 8 to 10 minutes. If the onion begins to brown before it becomes very soft, add water 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes.

Stir the onion, scraping up any browned bits. Set aside 1/4 cup and transfer the remaining onion to a food processor or blender. Add the buttermilk, vinegar and mayonnaise, then puree until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the chives.

In a large bowl, toss the salad greens, the reserved 1/4 cup of onion and the dressing. Divide among 6 plates. Top with the beets and prosciutto chips.

Recipe from the March/April 2010 issue of EatingWell magazine

Looking to liven up your salads?

Dressings, cheeses and toppings such as crumbled bacon are easy ways to add zest to your veggies. Of course, they also bring gobs of fat and calories with them.

But this spring salad of beets, prosciutto and creamy onion dressing created by Katie Webster at EatingWell magazine is a good example of ways to make a salad exciting without negating its nutritional benefits.

Mixed greens and baby beets, which are simmered in water until tender, are the backbone of the salad, but it’s what goes on top that adds the luxurious touches.

Thin slices of prosciutto are crisped in the oven to make a satisfyingly salty and crunchy topping similar to bacon, but with much less fat.

Caramelized onions lend a sweet and savory flavor to a creamy but light dressing made with nonfat buttermilk, white-wine vinegar and mayonnaise.

The salad can be made in a little under an hour from start to finish, but to make it easier to get on the table prepare the beets and the dressing up to two days ahead.