Beet Salad with Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese

At the farmers’ market the other day, I heard a man ask the farmer how to prepare beets, “You boil them, right?”  Please don’t boil beets!  It is SO much easier to pop them in the oven, wrapped in foil, then simply slip them out of their skins after they’ve roasted.  They taste better, too! This recipe calls for both red and golden beets, though you could, of course, use either color.  Red beets STAIN, so you might opt for golden beets if you are feeding children.  I wish I could come up with a fancier name for this salad.  There is nothing particularly novel about combining beets, goat cheese and nuts.  What makes this dish special is the use of toasted sesame oil in the dressing.  It amps up the nuttiness of the dressing, which goes so well with the other ingredients.  This makes four servings.  Enjoy!

3-4 golden beets, preferably with their tops
3-4 red beets, preferably with their tops
¼ cup hazelnuts
2 T. plus 1 tsp. hazelnut or walnut oil
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 T. good quality balsamic vinegar
2 oz. goat cheese

Arrange oven shelves so that one is one-third of the way off the oven floor (the usual place to bake) and another is at the half-way point. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut off the tops of each beat, leaving about an inch of the foliage attached. Rinse the beets of any loose dirt, then wrap each one completely in foil. (It’s OK to trim off any protruding roots.) Spread hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and place on the lower shelf of the oven. Place beets on the higher shelf, taking care that each beet is resting above the cookie sheet.

Toast hazelnuts for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the nuts from the oven and pour onto a clean kitchen towel. Return cookie sheet to the oven (so to catch any drips from the beets). Roast the beets 50 minutes longer.

Skin the hazelnuts. (You do this by folding the towel over the warm nuts and rubbing them briskly. Most of the skin will come right off. It is OK to leave on any that sticks.) Coarsely chop them and set them aside.

Measure the hazelnut oil, the sesame oil and the balsamic vinegar into a small glass jar.  Shake to combine.  Set aside.

Remove the beets from the oven and let them cool. Unfold each beet from the foil and skin it (over the sink!) by squeezing gently with your fingers. The beet will slide right out. Take care to keep the golden beets separate from the red beets, as the red beets will exude stain.

Starting with the yellow beets, cut each beat into ½-inch rounds, then each round into quarters. Place the yellow beets into a small mixing bowl. Do the same with the red beets, placing them in a separate bowl. In total, you should have about 3 cups of beets.

Crumble half of the goat cheese over each bowl. Divide the dressing between the two bowls and toss to combine. Pile the red beets into one side of a rimmed serving dish, then add the golden beets to the other side. Sprinkle the chopped toasted hazelnuts on top.  Serve at room temperature.

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