Sunday, April 15, 2012

Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad with Hazelnuts and Lemon Vinaigrette


Beets and goat cheese are a combination that never ceases to please me. The sweet, tender beet, combined with the creamy cheese gets even better when you add a crunchy toasted nut. The addition of greens adds bulk, crispness and a neutral vehicle for tangy dressing that brings it all together.

Many times I've used pre-cooked packaged beets to make a salad like this. However, they never have the same firm texture or sweetness that you get from roasting them fresh. But that takes time, and cooling time, making this first-course dish a long-term commitment in kitchen time.

I had some nice giant beets hanging out in the crisper one week, and kept putting off making them into a salad for this reason. And then I realized that since I had my oven on for something else, maybe a baguette or some potatoes, why don't I just roast them now and use them later? I don't usually have this kind of foresight, but this time it worked out.

While I enjoyed whatever dinner I had made on a Sunday night, my beets roasted away in the oven for over an hour. It seemed like they'd never be done, but luckily I was in no hurry. When they finally became tender enough to slide my knife in, I set them out to cool before throwing them, whole, into a ziploc to refrigerate, right before going to bed. The next day, and the next, I had my fancy beet salad ready in minutes - which is key for a busy weeknight.


Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
4 servings

4 medium fresh beets, scrubbed, trimmed, rough spots removed
1 T olive oil
salt & black pepper

4 C mixed greens
6 oz goat cheese (chevre)
1/4 C hazelnuts, halved and lightly toasted

Lemon Vinaigrette:
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
salt & black pepper

1. Heat oven to 400F. Place whole beets on a large sheet of aluminum foil, on a baking sheet, and drizzle with oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Seal the beets in the foil, making a closed packet with the seal at the top so juice does not escape. 

2. Roast for approximately 1 hour - checking at 45 minutes, and then every 15 minutes. A sharp knife should go easily through to the center. Cook them more or less, based on preference.

3. Open the packet and let cool completely, before using or refrigerating for up to 3 days.

4. Prepare the dressing when you are ready to make the salads. Whisk together lemon juice and mustard in a small bowl (a glass measuring cup with a spout works best). Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking with the other hand. Adjust with more lemon or oil to taste, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

5. To assemble salads, slice beets (1 per serving) into 1/4" rounds and place on plates. Toss greens with a few tablespoons of dressing and pile over beets. Top with chunks or crumbles of goat cheese and toasted nuts. Drizzle a bit more dressing on top, or serve it on the side.

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