Roasted Beet, Feta, Olive Salad

If your experience of beets is limited to those sad canned specimens, the ghoulish and rubbery machine-cut rounds that have been boiled to death and locked up in the dark, floating in a metallic brine, only to be released onto salad bars and hospital trays across America, then I wouldn’t blame you for not being a “beet person”. On behalf of beets everywhere, I implore you to take some of these beauties home from the market and roast them yourself. Don’t be surprised if you find that you’ve suddenly become “upbeet” and in fact, start doing little dances of joy when you see them piled up at the store, as I did this past week.

I was craving something light. Something bright and clean after all the glorious heaviness of Thanksgiving, and this salad just hit every note that I love in a dish: freshness, color, crunch, acid, salt, natural sweetness, and fat. Eating this I was thinking: I could have this everyday and never tire of it. Everything about it was pleasing and nourishing and satisfying. It could be a meal in itself, or a starter for a larger meal…it could accompany a soup, a sandwich, a pizza, some crusty bread with more olive oil to dip into. The main thing is: roast some beets. Roast some of these gorgeous golden ones, or the mellow yellow ones, or even the work-a-day red ones, but go ahead and bring some of them home and see for yourself how a simple cooking technique brings out the best in these long-maligned roots. They will pay you back for your attention by giving you a sweet result, that is very high in iron, vitamin C and potassium.

Cut off the stems and leaves, and give them a good wash and brush. They will be quite gritty. No, they do not look pretty. But just show them a little love and you’ll see how they’ll transform for you. Drizzle them with some fine olive oil, salt and pepper, wrap them up in a foil pouch and let them basque in the warmth of your oven for a good hour or so.

See? It’s all about inner beauty with these. You didn’t know that beets could teach you so much, did you? I think the saying goes “Don’t judge a beet by it’s cover.”

Peel the beets…the skin just washes off under running water, with a little light rubbing. Whisk up a quick vinaigrette with olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper. Crumble a good sheep’s milk feta, or some goat cheese, and add a few good briny olives, like calamata’s.

Quarter a few of the gorgeous beets, and bring this happy family of flavors all together on a bed of mixed greens and romain. Drizzle with dressing and find a sunny spot in your home to sit and savor this. When you close your eyes and taste the salty-creamy-acidy-crispy-sweetness of this salad, and feel the sun on your face, you can pretend you are somewhere overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean, with white-washed villas rising up the hills behind you. Yes, a roasted beet can do all that for you. Trust me.

 

Greek Salad with Roasted Beets, Olives, and Feta
adapted from Home Cooking with Jean-Georges, Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

4 medium beets (gold, red, or candy-striped, or a mix of each)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced red onion (optional, if you are like me and don’t like raw onions)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes, or minced fresh Thai chile
6 celery heart stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick length wise, then chopped into bite-sized chunks
Celery leaves for garnish
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (I prefer feta made from sheep’s milk), or goat cheese
1/2 cup pitted olives (calamata or nicoise or a mix)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, thinly sliced (or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano)
4 cups of mixed greens, and torn romaine leaves

PROCEDURE

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Clean the beets, cutting off the stems, leaves and trimming the root side to create a flat surface. Arrange the beets on a large sheet of foil, on top of a sheet pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then season with salt and pepper. Wrap tightly and roast in the oven until a knife pierces through the beets easily, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Unwrap, and when cool enough to handle, peel the beets under running water by rubbing the skin gently with your fingers. Cut beets into 1 inch wedges.

2. Whisk together the vinegar, remaining olive oil, the onion, chile, and 1 teaspoon (or more to taste) of salt.

3. Place the greens, romaine and celery in a large bowl. Drizzle with part of the dressing and toss, until coated. Divide among 4 plates. Evenly distribute the feta, olives and beet wedges among the 4 plates. Top with celery leaves and drizzle more dressing over the beets and cheese. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately.

 

 

7 responses to “Roasted Beet, Feta, Olive Salad”

  1. Oh, my! Thanks so much, Rachel, for this recipe. Yellow beets became my new favourite food this past summer when I spotted them at our local farmers’ market. I now love to serve them, lightly steamed and sliced into glorious pinwheel rounds, in green salads.

    I grew up in a Ukrainian family where our only experience with beets was in homemade borsch (don’t get me wrong – I LOVE this soup!) but somehow I missed the concept of serving beautiful beets in a more featured role. I’m going to try this Greek salad recipe for sure – your photos are magnificent, by the way. 🙂
    Cheers,
    C.

  2. Angela Centi says:

    Rachel, you recipes are delicious and your wonderfully knowledgeable commentaries are a joy to read. I love to open up your email!

    Angela

  3. Fay Playsted says:

    My only experience with beets are those really awful rounds of red beets. So, I am going to be adventurous and try the beautiful, golden beets I see at the Farmers’ Market. I love roasted vegetables, especially potatoes, carrots, and zucchinis, so I will probably fall in love with roasted beets! That would be a huge accomplishment on your part, Rachel, if I enjoy eating beets! Thanks for your great website!

    • Fay, they have a really lovely subtle sweet flavor that balances really well with the acid of a vinaigrette. And the red beets taste that way too when roasted. What I like about the golden ones is that you don’t get that red stain all over when working with them…if you do use red ones…wear gloves when peeling them or your hands will get stained!

  4. Sadhvi says:

    I love beets too. I have them in the garden, just because I have to have their energy around growing. I just put them in the pressure cooker, and after about 8 minutes, they are done.
    My grandma made “harvard beets” and I recently found that recipe in an old “Fannie Farmer” recipe book. It is just warm beets with butter and salt and pepper! I love beets any way. Thanks for this recipe, Rachel.

    • Sadvi, I love them too. The harvard beets sound interesting. Never had them warm, like a regular vegetable, and with butter. I am going to have to try that! Someone just shared a great old borscht recipe with me I may be trying out soon too!

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