I didn’t try beets till this summer. For some reason I was utterly terrified of them and had no desire to actually try them. When I finally did I couldn’t believe I had avoided them for so long! Then one fateful day I discovered the ever popular beet, goat cheese and walnut salad. Just about every single restaurant in the Bay Area had this dish but I can’t really blame them because it’s one of my favorite salads.
So beets are delicious, but making them can sometimes be another story. Anyone who’s ever attempted to make beets at home knows that your hands, kitchen and cooking utensils all look as if they went to war and the result was a bloody casualty. If this is not the case then I commend you because you are far more talented than I.
I was trolling the internet for new recipe ideas this weekend (what else is new) and I came across the title “salt roasted beets’ – wait what? I love salt crusting fish so I was intrigued that I could essentially do the same thing for the beets. Alexandra from Alexandra Cooks got this technique from an old chef she used to work with, the salt roasting apparently keeps almost all the juice and nutrients in the beet itself, eliminating the bloodshed and keeping them delicious and healthy. The orange dressing that comes with this dish really brings the flavor profile to another level that makes this recipe better than the average beet & goat cheese salad. Make this for yourself or at a dinner party, I promise you will be impressed.
beets, washed, greens removed
a few sprigs thyme and rosemary, optional*
3/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (store bought works fine, too)
1 T. rice vinegar or balsamic (I used rice vinegar)
zest of an orange
1 small shallot, minced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
** I toast nuts in a dry skillet until fragrant and slightly darker in color
Roast the beets. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Pour kosher salt into a shallow roasting vessel to make a thin layer. (See photo to help estimate how much.) Place beets on salt bed. If using herbs, nestle a few sprigs among the beets. Cover pan tightly with foil and place in oven for about one hour, depending on how many and how big your beets are. Note: To test for doneness, remove foil and slip a pairing knife into one of the beets. If the knife meets little resistance, they are done. When beets are done, remove foil covering and let them cool. When cool enough to handle, rub off the skins and discard. Cut beets into nice chunks.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place the orange juice in a small saucepan over medium heat and reduce to 1/3 cup. Let cool. Add vinegar, zest, shallots, chives and a pinch of salt. Let sit for 15 minutes. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.
To assemble salad, arrange greens on a platter. Top with goat cheese, walnuts and cut beets. Season with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper. Spoon dressing over salad. As you plate the salad, the ingredients will all toss nicely together. Note: This method of serving is merely for looks — beets are so messy that if you toss everything together, it becomes one big red mess. If you don’t care about looks, go ahead, toss everything together. If you try spooning the dressing over the salad, however, and tossing lightly as you serve it, I think you’ll find it both tastes and looks wonderful.