There’s a satisfying logic to why I named this salad after the legendary music producer, Quincy Jones. (Well, it’s satisfying if you love puns and music trivia as much as my family does.) Here’s the logic:
- The exotic fruit I feature in this recipe is quince, Mr. Jones’ fruit namesake. I’ll talk more about quince in a minute.
- Like quince, beets also remind me of Quincy Jones. For those who love their music trivia, you know that he produced Michael Jackson’s Beat It (along with Thriller and so many other hit songs). Who doesn’t love a beet/beat pun?
- In an interview about Beat It, Quincy Jones said that to make a hit “…you have to go for the throat in four, five or six different areas.” This salad follows his recipe for success by going for the throat with five distinct flavors: quince, beets, fennel, mustard, and clove.
- Quincy Jones is a complete badass and deserves to have a salad named after him. If I were to list all the credentials and accomplishments that mark one of the most prolific musical careers of all time, I’d take up at least 45 minutes of your time. I would know, because my mom once spent an entire car ride from Sonoma to San Francisco reading all of Quincy Jones’ accomplishments off her iphone to my sister and me (she often gets wrapped up in her enthusiasm to learn about a new subject and falls into the rabbit hole of wikipedia). We eventually had to stop her because we’d reached our saturation point, and now “Quincy Jones” has become the code word we use to clue in my mom that she has been going on too long about a subject. E.g. “Wow mom, all that stuff about banana slugs is really interesting. I bet Quincy Jones loves banana slugs…” (By the way, banana slugs actually ARE insanely interesting, especially what they do with that hole on the side of their head. You should wikipedia them.)
Now that I’ve explained the meaning behind the Quincy Jones Salad, let’s move on to why you’re really here: quince.Quince is a fruit that looks like a pear or yellow apple, but is sour and as hard as a rock (have I sold you on it yet?). But with some poaching, stewing, or roasting, quince transforms under heat to a soft, peach-colored, sweet fruit that has a wonderful floral aroma. Quince has a very high pectin content so it has long been used to make jams and conserves, such as the Spanish delicacy, membrillo, which is quince cooked down to a jelly-like paste and traditionally served with Manchego cheese (here it is on the menu of a Spanish restaurant right down the street, Venga Paella).
In this recipe I lightly poach the quince with some clove and star anise until it has a tender yet firm texture similar to cooked apples. The end result goes really well with crisp fennel and earthy roasted beets, and the mustard vinaigrette brightens it all up a bit. To stay true to my Spanish roots, I crumbled some aged Manchego over the top of my salad, but you can leave it off if you’d prefer.
I’ll give it a rest before you all start commenting, “I wonder if Quincy Jones likes quince…”
Quincy Jones Salad
- 2 large beets or 4 smaller beets, washed but with skins still on
- 2 quince (substitution: you can try green apples or Bosc pears, but poach for half the time)
- 6 cloves
- 6 peppercorns
- 1 star anise pod
- 2-3 strips lemon or orange zest
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup white balsamic or apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 fennel bulb, halved and sliced thinly
- 4 Tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt and fresh cracked pepper
- 1 oz aged manchego, crumbled with your fingers
Wrap each beet in foil and roast in the oven on a roasting pan for 45-60 minutes at 375 degrees F, or until the beets are tender. Once cool, rub the peel off (they should be easy to remove) and slice into wedges.
Meanwhile, peel the quince, cut them in half and remove the core/seeds. Slice each half into 8 slices and put them into a saucepan with the clove, peppercorns, anise, lemon zest, water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and let simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the quince slices are tender yet hold their shape, like cooked apples.
Make the vinaigrette by whisking the olive oil with the mustard, lemon juice, balsamic, salt and pepper. When ready to assemble the salad, layer the beets, quince and sliced fennel in a bowl and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with crumbled manchego cheese or serve as is.