Pickled beets give this salad some extra zing and make for a gorgeous presentation. Minced preserved lemon, deliciously salty and citrusy at the same time, is a great addition to salad dressings. Crumbled fresh goat cheese or feta can be substituted for the ricotta salata.
To make the croutons, if using, cut the bread slices into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes. In a frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bread cubes, reduce the heat to low, and cook, turning once, until golden and crusty, about 4 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with the salt and thyme, toss briefly, and transfer to paper towels to drain.
In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, pepper, and lemon. Gradually whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Add the arugula and beets and toss to coat well.
Divide the salad among individual plates. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the ricotta salata over the salads. Serve at once.
© 2012 All rights reserved. Published by Weldon Owen.