October 21, 2013

The Best Beets

Beets are one of those vegetables that make people think, "Oh, do I have to?"

While I've never disliked beets and have always been in love with their color, I was never really into them until I had this salad.  Beets and walnuts make such a lovely combination!  The tender beets, toasted nuts, and bright vinaigrette may just change beets for you, too.

Growing up, my experience with beets was mostly limited to my mom's "Blender Borscht," a chilled, smooth, and hot pink soup we would have alongside knaidlach.  This is also a very good way to eat beets, but it's not my go-to. The reason is not that I don't like it, because I do, but just that I forget about it.  It does require a blender and since I didn't have one for a long time, the borscht made a permanent home in the back of my mind...kind of like how I ignore recipes that require a microwave. However, I have a blender now and that borscht would make beautiful photos for this blog!

But back to the excellent salad...

  • 1# beets, with their greens
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 T. olive oil (or combination with walnut oil, if you have it)
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • Fresh baby spinach or mixed greens, for serving
  • Blue cheese, chèvre, or feta, to top

Remove greens and scrub beets well. Place them in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Wash a few of the greens, chop and set aside.  Bring the beets to a boil and cook for about an hour, until tender.  You can cover the pan if there is enough space between the water level and the top, or keep an eye on the pot and add water as the beets are exposed.

Meanwhile, toast the walnuts over low heat, allow to cool, chop coarsely, and set aside in a large bowl. In a small bowl (or measuring cup), combine vinegars, oil(s), and salt.  Set aside. 

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and parboil onions until just translucent, about two or three minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse well with cold water - even the extra-pungent onion I had smelled sweet and fresh and almost floral after parboiling!  Add the well drained onions to the vinaigrette.  While this is not absolutely necessary, I found that in the vinaigrette was a convenient place to keep the onions while waiting for the beets. They also picked up a little extra tartness from the vinegar, which was so nice.

Chop the parsley and add to the bowl with the walnuts, along with the chopped beet greens.

When the beets are fork tender, strain in a colander and run them under cold water.  Peel the beets and chop into large dice.  You could also do slices, but as I have mentioned before, I do not like unwieldy bites of messy foods. Respect your diner (even if that's you)!

Add the beets to the large bowl with the walnuts and greens.  Pour over the vinaigrette and onions and stir to combine well.  Allow to sit for about a half hour, to allow flavors to meld, but you can skip this step if you're hungry and need to get dinner on the table.

Serve over a bed of mixed greens and top with your choice of cheese.  I used blue cheese here, but feta is really great.  The supermarket closest to me only had dry, mediocre feta. Boo.  I love chèvre on pretty much everything. Enjoy your delicious beets!

*Oh, and remember that you had beets later on when you have to pee. (*Sighs with relief.*)

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