beets in the garden
beets in the garden

Roasted Beets and Feta Salad

  

August 24, 2015

This old fashioned vegetable has made a trendy and delicious come back! Serve it up as a hot side or cold in a salad...either way they are delicious and well worth considering in your menu plans.

I have to admit, beets are a little bit ugly, and they can be messy to prepare – so why have they become so trendy?  Well...a few reasons: 

• They add great color to a meal

• Beets are naturally sweet and their flavor makes them quite appealing.  As the weather cools, the color and sweetness of your beets will intensify.

• Beets are high in nutritional value. They are low in calories, fat, and salt and high in essential nutrients. Add a bit of cheese and you add some high quality protein to your already nutritious beets. 

• Couple your beets with greens and your plate gets an additional boost - vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, and calcium...

Ingredients

4-5 Medium beets - red, golden or combination

1/4 Cup candied walnuts or pecans - recipe below

1/3 Cup oil (olive or canola)

2 Tablespoons vinegar (apple cider or red wine)

1 Tablespoon sugar

1/2 Teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon orange zest

1/3 Cup orange juice

2 Tablespoons minced red onion

Fresh baby spinach or beet greens

1/2 - 3/4 Cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions

STEP ONE

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash, trim beets leaving 1-inch of tops and entire tails intact. Wrap all beets in a large piece of foil, place in shallow pan and bake until beets are tender (about 50-65 minutes depending on size). Allow beets to cool enough to handle. Peel and slice or dice beets. Arrange on serving dish either as a salad or hot dish**

STEP TWO

While beets are baking prepare dressing: whisk together oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, orange zest and orange juice. Drizzle over beets, sprinkle with cheese and candied walnuts.

NOTE: Roasting beets may be done ahead of time and stored in refrigerator. See notes below for boiling or microwaving beets. Prepare candied walnuts and set aside.

STEP THREE

Sugared Walnuts: Place 1-tablespoon butter, ¼-cup sugar, and 1-cup walnut or pecan pieces in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Stir until butter and sugar melts; continue to stir and toast until all pieces are coated and sugar is completely melted (stir constantly, do not allow to burn). Spread nuts out on parchment paper to cool. Store extra in cool dry location.

But back to the ugliness...

It's true, taken from the ground beets are ugly, but oh how they clean up! 

beets in the garden

How do you stop the color from draining out?

Beets have long been used as a dye agent, the color does indeed bleed out when cooked, especially when they are covered with water. But when you roast beets, the color mostly stays put and the roasting process naturally pulls out the sweetness of the beet.

There are two common methods for roasting beets, and for both methods, start by washing the beets and trimming off the tops leaving 1-inch of the tops and the root intact. Leaving the roots and tops intact helps preserve the color. 

Method 1:  Wrap beets in foil, (I wrap several beets together) and place on a baking sheet. Bake until tender - 350º for 50-65 minutes, depending on size of beet. The loss of color is minimal.

Method 2: Wash and trim as before. Lightly oil the skin, place on a baking sheet and bake until tender.

 

With both methods, cool beets enough to handle and peel. The foil wrapped beets peel a little easier, but some say the oil roasted beet has more flavor, I did not notice much difference.

Alternative Method: Another method is to microwave beets. This is MUCH faster (takes about 20-30 minutes and has a good flavor but I do not care for it because it leaves the beet soft, almost mushy and the skins do not peel off as smoothly.

roasted beet

roasted beet

microwaved beet

Microwaved Beets

Suggestion for clean up and stain free hands: wear gloves to peel; paper towel helps pull beets off; also placing beets in a pan of water helps skins to remove easily. 

Salad or Side – what’s the difference in preparation?

Not a lot. If you would like a beautiful side dish, arrange warm beets on serving plate – plain or on a bed of steamed spinach or beet greens for hot side. If needed, warm the beets before plating. For a salad, arrange beets on a plate of baby spinach. Last, the crowning glory – add cheese! Until a few months ago I loved to eat beets plain or pickled (love pickled beets!) A few months ago I attended a Farm To School dinner where the local beets were served hot with cheese sprinkled and melting on the top. I could not get enough beets that night, they were delicious. So my new serving option - sprinkle with feta and candied walnuts. It is just as delicious with the cheese regardless of whether they are warm or cold.

Enjoy!

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