Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Recipe: Beet and Walnut Salad

I'm way overdue for a new recipe, and I succumbed to a veggie craving today: beets. If you think you don't like beets, I'll bet you've only had the offerings from a can or the salad bar. What makes this recipe special is that fresh beets are roasted which brings out an amazing sweetness.

The success of this salad depends on one major thing: letting the simple flavors of quality ingredients shine. I use real extra virgin olive oil in the vinaigrette - it does add to the fat gram count, but the flavor of a true vinaigrette is far superior to a commercial low or no-fat "vinaigrette" dressing. If you feel you must, you can substitute a commercial preparation, but I urge you to try this as written.

Beet and Walnut Salad

  • 1 medium to large or 2 small ruby beets
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp minced shallot
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 3 cups baby spinach/spring mix salad blend
  • 2 oz semi-soft or soft goat cheese (such as montrachet)
  • 2 oz chopped walnut pieces

First we must roast the beets. One medium to large sized beet or two small ones will suffice. Trim off all the greens, and scrub well to remove any remaining dirt. Drizzle sparingly with olive oil - just enough to rub into the skin (a teaspoon at most should do it). Wrap in foil and place in a 375F oven for 60-90 minutes. It will be done when the flesh can be pierced to the center with a fork, without meeting significant resistance. It will come out of the oven looking like this. Let it cool until it's comfortably handled.

While the beets cool, make the vinaigrette. Finely mince 2 tablespoons shallots - about half a medium bulb. Mince 1 clove garlic, or use approx 1/2 teaspoon prepared minced garlic. Combine in a small bowl with 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar. Whisk in 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Cover and set aside.

Now traditionally, a vinaigrette has an oil to acid ratio of 3 to 1. I personally find that very heavy on the oil, and I'm not afraid of a tart dressing. In interest of keeping the fat content down, I go for a 1:1 ratio. Modify this to your taste, but keep in mind the nutritional information is based on 1:1. 

Next, the beets need to be peeled. There are several ways to accomplish this, some messier than others. But be careful: beets will stain anything, including your skin. If you don't want pink fingers...

use a pair of surgical gloves or dishwashing gloves when peeling your beets. I don't have anywhere to go in public for a  few days, so I just dug in.

One method is to hold the beet in a paper towel, and use another to gently scrub the skin away. I personally find this method to shred the skin more than I would prefer, so instead I use a standard vegetable peeler. Begin near the top where the greens were growing out, and gently start to peel down toward the root. You'll find the skin will separate easily, and you can peel large strips with your fingers. Once finished, slice off the tip of the root, and enough of the top to clear the greens. Slice the beet in half, then cut into small wedges or cubes, your preference.

Toss the sliced beets with 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette. Cover and refrigerate until completely cooled. 


When the beets have chilled sufficiently, measure 3 cups of baby spinach/spring mix blend (I used Earthbound Farms Organic 50/50) into a large bowl. Toss with 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Note this will leave 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette - save for another salad.

 Dice or crumble 2 ounces of semi-soft or soft goat cheese. Montrachet works well, or anything rolled in herbs. Divide salad onto 4 plates, then top each with 1/4 of the beet mixture, 1/4 of the cheese, and 1/2 ounce each of chopped walnut pieces.

Nutritional info (compiled using recipe builder at http://www.myfooddiary.com). Serving size: 1/4 recipe. 190 calories, total fat 16.5g, saturated fat 3.6g, cholesterol 6mg, sodium 112mg, carbohydrate 8.9g, dietary fiber 3.7g, sugars 3.9g, protein 6.5g

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