Just Beet It: Spinach and Beet Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

I could be wrong, but I don't think I'm alone in having grown up with a latent schema associating beets strictly with cans. As in originating from, and best kept there indefinitely unopened. Over the years, though, I've grown to  appreciate these hardy yet sweet leafy root vegetables, and to admire their range of hues, from deep red purples to warm and golden. But this summer, I've really learned to love them.  Or maybe that should be I learned to really love them. I love their earthiness; their spectrum of textures, from raw shredded crunch to meltingly tender. I love that I can eat them entirely, and especially enjoy sauteeing their chopped stems with the leaves in garlic and a tiny bit of olive oil, and finished with a splash of balsamic vinegar. I even love the fact that they stain everything they touch, foiling your soup's broth base by turning it the color of Pepto-Bismol. At least it's an obvious reliable natural dye. It doesn't hurt that they were our best garden yield this year, and are a fabulous source of vitamin B, folate, manganese, potassium, and more. They can even contribute to your iron stores. Must admit, I've been reluctant to write up this post because it's so far from earth shattering. Not that most posts are anything explosive, but when it comes to beets, most people like or don't, and everyone who likes has a favorite recipe similar and likely more creative than this one. The reason for posting this particular salad, however, is because I decided to make two bowls simultaneously, one featuring roasted beets, the other with steamed. I knew my personal preference would lean towards roasted, but after trying both side-by-side, I'm all the more emphatically convinced. Roasted beets have beautiful, deeper color, more robust flavor, and a firmness that to me seems to promote satiety and better bulk up a salad. At the same time, this little experiment did highlight that there is indeed a place for steaming beets, too. Steaming's easier and quicker, and brings out the natural sugary sweetness that can be useful for some recipes. I've been playing with a lot of beet recipes this summer, and would love to exchange favorites with you!

Spinach and Beet Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

  • 6-8 small to medium beets
  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed
  • 3/4 cup feta or goat cheese crumbles
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts

For the dressing:

  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1) Roast the beets: trim and wash beets, and place in a pouch of aluminum foil. Roast for 40 minutes at 400 degrees F. Remove from oven but let beets continue to steam in the pouch 10 more minutes. Open, let cool, and discard skins.  Cut into quarters or thick chunks/slices and reserve.

2) While beets are roasting, toast walnuts.

3) Prepare dressing. Whisk all ingredients and set aside.

4) In a bowl, toss spinach with enough vinaigrette to coat. Top (on plates, or in salad bowl) with roasted beets, and sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles and walnuts.

Photo credit: Flikr user Elana's Pantry