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Fall Fest: Roasted Beet Salad

Kelsey's Roasted Beet Salad, topped with pears, toasted almonds and goat cheese.

Fall Fest 2010We’re teaming up with other food and garden bloggers to host Summer Fest 2010, a season-long garden party. Each week we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market. To join in, check out awaytogarden.com.

If you think you hate beets, chances are you’ve just never had them cooked properly. Perhaps your 8-year-old self was force-fed slimy, pickled beets from a can, so of course you’re still fearful. Well it’s time to give beets a chance. In celebration of Fall Fest 2010, this week, we’re talking about root vegetables. And among the potatoes, rutabagas, carrots. turnips and other fine veggies in this group, beets stand out as an under-appreciated jewel . . . a diamond in the rough . . . a ruby in the dirt, if you will.

The easiest way to cook beets is roasting — their earthy flavor deepens and their skins slip off. Once roasted, you can serve them as a side dish, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt, but they’re particularly lovely over a bed of greens, dressed with a vinaigrette. For the simplest beet salad with homemade vinaigrette, check out Kelsey’s Roasted Beet Salad.

You don’t even need a pan to roast the beets, just stick them in a foil packet, unpeeled, and roast for 45 minutes to an hour. Don’t peel the beets first, they’ll stay moist if you roast them with their skins on, and the skins will peel off easier after they’re cooked than before.

Peel the beets while they're still warm from the oven -- just cool enough to handle, the skins will come off easier that way.

While your beets are roasting, wash your lettuce and prepare the vinaigrette. For some, a homemade vinaigrette might sound as scary as beets. But don’t be nervous, and don’t succumb to the temptation of bottled dressing. You simply add vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper to a bowl, then slowly add the oil, in a steady stream, whisking till emulsified.

When you first stir the ingredients in the vinaigrette, they will appear separate.

As you whisk, you’ll see your vinaigrette come together. You’ll know it’s done when it looks like this:

The finished dressing will look like, well, dressing, instead of separate liquids swirled together.

Then just toss the beets and the greens with the vinaigrette, plate your salad and top it with sliced pears, toasted almonds and a bit of goat cheese. Here it is again:

Learning to love beets isn't difficult work if you start with a salad like this.

Roasted Beet Salad
Recipe courtesy Kelsey Nixon

Roasted Beets
1 pound small beets, well-scrubbed (about 5)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Vinaigrette
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup olive oil

Salad
1 large pear
3 cups mesculin greens
2 ounces goat cheese

Directions:
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degree F.

For the roasted beets: Place the beets in a sheet of foil and place another sheet on top and create a seal around the beet. Roast the beets on a baking sheet until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool the beets in their foil packet for a few minutes, and then rub off the skins using a paring knife if needed. The beets need to still be a little warm to be able to remove the skins easily.

While the beets are roasting, toast the almonds in a small skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Remove and cool.

For the vinaigrette: Make the vinaigrette by stirring together the vinegar, mustard, salt and sugar, and then slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.

Slice the cooled and peeled beets into 1/4-inch thick slices and add half the vinaigrette, tossing to coat completely. Toss the remaining vinaigrette with the salad greens.

Quarter and core the pear and slice it into julienne strips, about 1/8-inch thick.

Arrange the dressed greens, and beets on a platter and top with the pear, toasted nuts, and goat cheese.

For more essential cooking skills like roasting and making vinaigrette, watch Kelsey on her new show, Kelsey’s Essentials, premiering on Saturday, Nov. 6.

More Root Veggies with Friends and Family:

More Fall Fest Picks:

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