If you know me at all, you know that I’m not really a fan of nutritious foods (except peas!). Aka salads are not my first choice. I was looking through my posts, and I figured that this space needed a green recipe to switch it up. Because realistically, I eat salad occasionally…like probably once a month or so… (No judging please—cookie dough just feeds my soul, okay?).
The main reason this salad popped into my mind was because I had a handful of beets on my hands. For someone who mostly avoids the produce section except for bags of baby carrots, you might be thinking how this happened. I made it my New Year’s Resolution to cook/bake at least 5 recipes from all of my many cookbooks. I look through them all the time, but I thought that I would appreciate them more if I actually experienced the recipes. When I started bookmarking recipes, I gave myself a challenge to try out foods and ingredients that I would normally pass over. Aka a beet recipe popped up on my list, and there you have it! Leftover beets sitting in my fridge.
The nice thing about beets, for veggie lovers and haters alike, is that if you roast them, they actually taste really sweet. Your oven turns hard beets (that basically taste like dirt, sorry) into tender, sweet, little guys that have a bit of an earthy bite. It’s basically magic people.
Roasting is one of the best things in the world and pretty fantastic from a food science point of view. In the oven at a high temperature, the water begins to evaporate and the flavors in the veggies get concentrated as water leaves. As that water escapes, the veggie environment becomes perfect for Maillard browning! The always-delicious pathway that leads to big, nutty flavors. Finally, near the end of the roasting process, the high temperature will cause some caramelization to occur. The larger, complex sugars break down to create sweeter beets.
The temperature that you get with roasting in the oven is much higher than the temperature of boiling water which is the other preparation method with root vegetables like beets. That higher temperature is what allows complex flavor reactions like Maillard browning and caramelization to occur (this recipe uses 400⁰F for the oven temp—lower oven temps may not allow caramelization).
This particular roasting method is not a completely dry roast. It uses a splash of water to help soften the beets. It’s like an extra head start to perfect texture before all of the water evaporates rendering your beets tiny, shrunken, and lifeless.
So now that you’re obsessed with the idea of roasting, let’s get to it—shall we? I used a mustard-based dressing for this salad because I think mustard and beets go really well together. Feel free to use a different dressing of your own taste!
Roasted Beet, Pear, and Feta Salad
Roasting process adapted from Prune
Salad adapted from Love and Lemons
3 medium, firm beets (about 1 ¼ – 1 ½ pounds)—alternatively, you can buy roasted beets and skip steps 1-4
1 ripe pear (I used Bosc)
¼ cup roughly chopped walnuts (I used raw)
⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 big handfuls of greens of your choice (I used a spring mix)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped shallot (about half a shallot)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup (or substitute honey)
- Preheat your oven to 400⁰F. Meanwhile, prep the beets. Cut any greens off of the beets if they are present. Retain for your salad if you wish. They will be a little bitter. Rinse and scrub the beets with cold water.
- I used a brownie pan for this, but any shallow pan will do. Gabrielle Hamilton suggested not using a sheet pan that spreads the beets out too much—it will dry them out. Cover the bottom of your pan with foil or parchment paper. Cut the beets in half and place in the pan with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Add a couple tablespoons of water to the tops of the beets. Cover loosely with foil.
- Roast the beets for about 45 minutes checking at the 30 minute time-mark for softness. A knife or cake tester should slide in and out easily when they are done.
- Remove the beets from the oven, remove the foil, and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Using gloves (or Ziploc bags over your hands), slip the skins of the beets off. If you’re having trouble with this part, you may need to roast your beets some more. Let cool completely and refrigerate until you are ready to use them.
- In a large bowl, toss the salad greens, thyme, walnuts, shallot, and feta a couple of times to combine. Peel and core your pear. Cut the pear into small-ish pieces of your choice. I chopped them into ½ inch pieces. Cut your beet halves to pieces of the same size. Add the pear and beet pieces to the salad mix and gently toss.
- Prepare your salad dressing in a bowl by whisking together the mustard and maple syrup with a generous amount of pepper. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper accordingly. If you like a sweeter dressing, add a bit more maple syrup.
- At this point, your salad is probably pretty. Once you toss in dressing, everything gets a bit messy-looking and pink. If you are “presenting” this salad, I would serve the dressing on the side. Otherwise, add almost all of the dressing to the salad mix. Toss to combine and mix. If you like more dressed salads, add the rest of the dressing and mix. Taste and adjust with more pepper if desired.
- Serve immediately, and enjoy!