This Golden Beet Salad with Pine Nuts and Goat Cheese is the perfect side to any meal. Healthy, elegant, and easy to make. Jump ahead to the recipe here, or read on and get it at the bottom of this post.
Somewhere in the advent of commercial canning, people learned to hate beets. Perhaps it’s because being boiled in their own juices in a tin can dulls their sweetness, leaving them with little to no character and a mushy, over-emphasized flavor of earthiness some find too reminiscent of the dirt they were grown in.
The truth is, if that’s what you’re judging a beet by, you’ve closed the door on a vegetable that has so much more to offer. Yes, beets are earthy, but they are also sweet, and vegetal, and complex. Roasting them in the oven brings out that sweetness, and marinating them lightly with vinegar and olive oil brightens their flavor even more. If you’re wanting to change your mind about a beet, this might just be the way to do it.
Then again, I’m not really one say whether this salad will change your mind on beets or not, because I’ve been a beet lover for as long as I can remember. I credit this to never having been forced to eat canned or poorly prepared beets as a child, and instead my first introduction was roasted beets dressed with orange vinaigrette and wilted arugula. I’ve been enamored ever since, but even I can detect what others hate when I take a bite of canned beet. That tinny, dirty flavor is not doing this controversial veggie any favors.
Golden beets are a little less known than their bright red brethren, but just as tasty. I happen to think they have a lighter flavor than red beets, too. I’m not sure if this is purely psychological or not — one of these days I’ll have to do a blind tasting and report back on my findings — but either way, I like to think they’re a good place to start if you’re on the fence about beets. Or just wanting to handle them without staining your cutting board.
If you’re like me, and a beet lover through and through, this salad is a must to have in your repertoire. Roasting the beets whole takes a bit of time, but doing so saves you the task of peeling them while they’re raw (once they’re cooked, the skins rub off easily, which is a godsend). You can use all golden beets like I did, or red, or a mix — or even little chioggia (candy stripe) beets if you can find them. And if time is an issue, the salad does well being made in advance. Just dress it with the olive oil and vinegar before storing it in the fridge, and add the herbs and such just before serving.
This salad is incredibly simple: just beets, olive oil, vinegar, and herbs, and the pine nuts and goat cheese to dress it up a little. If you’re allergic to nuts, or not a fan of goat cheese, leave them off. As for the herbs, that’s where the fun is — you can change the whole personality of the dish just by using whatever herbs you have on hand. I used parsley and mint this time, but I’ve included plenty of other ideas in the recipe notes. I suggest trying it different ways to find what you like best.
- 4-5 medium golden beets
- 1-2 TBSP white wine vinegar
- 1-2 TBSP good olive oil
- 3 TBSP freshly chopped parsley
- 3 TBSP freshly chopped mint, or other herb*
- ¼ - ½ cup crumbled goat cheese, or feta, or other crumbly cheese like gorgonzola, to taste
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If the beets have their greens attached, remove them and save them for another use. Scrub the beets well to remove any dirt, and wrap each tightly in aluminum foil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for about an hour, or until the beets are tender all the way through. Check them by carefully peeling back a little of the foil, and piercing them with a knife -- if the knife slides through easily, they're done.
- Remove the beets from the foil pouches and let rest until they are cool enough to handle. Once they are, rub them gently with your thumbs to remove the skins -- they should come off easily at this point. If they don't, it may mean your beets are undercooked and need a little longer in the oven.
- Once all of the skins have been removed, cut away the remaining stub of the stem end, and cut the beets into wedges. Place the wedges in a bowl, and toss with the vinegar, olive oil, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Let the beets marinate for 10-15 minutes, or longer if you want, to absorb some of the vinegar. (If you're making the salad in advance, you can store it in the fridge at this point for up to a day. When ready to serve, continue with the recipe.)
- Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring or shaking the pan frequently to keep them from burning, until they are golden brown in places. Crumble the cheese, chop the herbs, and add all to the bowl with the beets. Taste, and add a bit more salt, pepper, vinegar, or olive oil, if you feel it needs it.
- Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled.
This salad can of course be made with red beets, or chioggia beets, in place of or in addition to the golden beets -- I chose golden for this salad because I think they are underrated. They are also slightly less earthy tasting than red beets, and won't stain everything they touch pink.
Feel free to omit the cheese if you'd like to make this salad vegan, and if you're allergic to nuts, leave off the pine nuts or swap them for sunflower seeds or pepitas.