Beets – A Taste Transformation

 Roasted Golden Beet Salad with Walnuts and Sherry-Walnut Dressing 

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

What food do you adore now but despised as a child?  For me it was beets.

 The beets of my childhood were canned red ones steeped in pickle juice or fresh beets prepared in a pressure cooker, which brings them to the same unpalatable state.  Years later, I tried fresh beets that had been roasted and marinated by a talented restaurant chef and it was like tasting the colorful little root vegetables for the first time. 

 Roasting, one of my favorite techniques for cooking vegetables, concentrates the flavors and sweetness. All that sweetness calls for contrast – with acid, saltiness, tannins or a touch of bitterness.

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

  In this recipe, the juxtaposition comes from a tangy sherry vinegar and walnut oil dressing, toasted walnuts for a tannic note and peppery, slightly bitter arugula. Beets beg for a salty, piquant cheese like feta, a robust goat or crumbly blue.  I was out of cheese when I served this recipe recently; my family let me know it was missing, but it didn’t stop them from devouring the salad.  When oranges are in season, try a classic combo of beets and orange segments with citrus vinaigrette and salty black or green olives.

 Today we can enjoy a beet renaissance with chioggia or striped beets, golden beets and petite baby beets of all colors widely available. If you’re combining them, do so just before serving as the colors can bleed together. 

 I’ve tried peeling and slicing or dicing the beets before roasting them to reduce the cooking time but have found it easiest to simply scrub them and roast them whole, lightly oiled and covered.  Cool the beets until you can comfortable handle them and then slip off the ends and skin.

 Beets contain key nutrients – particularly folate, potassium, manganese and some fiber.  If your beets come with the green tops attached, be sure to cook them.  They are a nutrient power-house.  A 1/2 cup cooked beet greens contains less than 20 calories, 2 grams protein, 2 grams fiber and significant amounts of Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, riboflavin, magnesium and manganese.  My favorite way to cook greens is to blanch them briefly in boiling salted water, drain well, and then sauté in olive oil with garlic, red onions and Italian herbs. 

 Roasted Golden Beet Salad with Sherry-Walnut Dressing

 I tested this with 2 1/2 to 3-inch diameter beets.  If you are roasting baby beets, reduce the cooking time.  Crumble on a piquant cheese like feta, blue or goat, just before serving. 

  2 pounds golden or red beets

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons roasted walnut oil or olive oil

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh sage or other fresh, chopped herbs

1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

Arugula, optional

 Preheat oven to 375°.  Scrub beets and place in parchment-lined pan.  Spray beets with olive oil.  Cover with foil.  Roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until beets are tender when pierced with a fork.  Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to peel.  Trim ends and peel beets.  Slice or chop beets, as desired.  Place in a medium bowl; add red onions.  To make dressing, whisk vinegar with mustard, salt and pepper.  Whisk in olive oil.  Stir in sage or other herbs. Toss dressing with beets and chill until serving time.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  Top with walnuts and place on a bed of fresh arugula to serve.  Makes 6 servings.  

Copyright © Lorelle S Del Matto 2012


lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.


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