Salt Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese & Toasted Walnuts

Uncooked Beets

I’m not sure why I’m so excited about this salad. There is nothing novel about the combination. Beets, goat cheese, walnuts. They’ve been married to death. Like tomatoes and basil and mozzarella. Like prosciutto and figs and blue cheese. Like smoked salmon and cucumber and crème fraîche.

But, have you ever salt roasted beets? Don’t freak out. The beets don’t taste overly salty. In fact, they don’t taste salty at all. They taste delicious. And sweet. And perfectly firm.

I was inspired to blog about this method after reading an article in the March issue of Saveur — all about where to eat in Los Angeles — which offered a recipe for Wolfgang Puck’s beet and goat cheese napoleons, an appetizer served at Spago. A short article in the back of the issue addresses how to cook beets so that their color doesn’t run. To preserve color and nutrients, Saveur recommends placing beets (5 to 6) in a 9×13-inch baking dish, pouring in an inch of water, covering the dish tightly with foil, and roasting until a knife easily slides into the beets, about 1 1/2 hours. I used to cook beets just as prescribed.

That was until I learned the method of the chef (former chef) from the cafe where I used to work. He salt roasted his beets with rosemary and thyme, and his beet salad, served with a goat cheese-topped crostini, Blue Heron Farm greens and a lemon emulsion, was one of his signature dishes. When I tried his cooking method at home, I discovered something remarkable: not an ounce of liquid (well maybe a teensy tiny bit) leeches from the beets. If preserving color and nutrients is the goal, then salt roasting is the way to cook beets.

Beets’ affinity for orange makes the dressing for this salad, adapted from Saveur’s, particularly nice: reduced orange juice, orange zest, shallots, rice vinegar, chives and olive oil. I like to spoon this dressing over the salad rather than toss it with the ingredients — beets turn a tossed salad into one big red mess.

Think you don’t like beets? Try salt roasting them. As a final endorsement I’d like to share that my husband never liked beets until he tasted them cooked this way. The first time I salt roasted beets and served them to him, he asked me what was different and why he liked them. Had I not been so impressed by his discerning palette, I might have been offended — I never knew he didn’t like beets. And it turns out he didn’t. I just didn’t know how to cook them. 

Salt Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese & Walnuts

Beets

Dressing Ingredients

Salt Roasted Beet Salad

Serves: However Many You’d Like

Roasted Beets:
beets, washed, greens removed
kosher salt
a few sprigs thyme and rosemary, optional*

Dressing:
3/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (store bought works fine, too)
1 T. rice vinegar or balsamic (I used rice vinegar)
zest of an orange
1 small shallot, minced
chives, minced
kosher salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

goat cheese
walnuts, toasted**
greens, optional***

* Not sure if these herbs impart any flavor, but if you have them on hand, use them
** I toast nuts in a dry skillet until fragrant and slightly darker in color
*** This salad is delicious with or without the addition of greens

Roast the beets. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Pour kosher salt into a shallow roasting vessel to make a thin layer. (See photo to help estimate how much.) Place beets on salt bed. If using herbs, nestle a few sprigs among the beets. Cover pan tightly with foil and place in oven for about one hour, depending on how many and how big your beets are. Note: To test for doneness, remove foil and slip a pairing knife into one of the beets. If the knife meets little resistance, they are done. When beets are done, remove foil covering and let them cool. When cool enough to handle, rub off the skins and discard. Cut beets into nice chunks.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place the orange juice in a small saucepan over medium heat and reduce to 1/3 cup. Let cool. Add vinegar, zest, shallots, chives and a pinch of salt. Let sit for 15 minutes. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.

To assemble salad, arrange greens on a platter. Top with goat cheese, walnuts and cut beets. Season with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper. Spoon dressing over salad. As you plate the salad, the ingredients will all toss nicely together. Note: This method of serving is merely for looks — beets are so messy that if you toss everything together, it becomes one big red mess. If you don’t care about looks, go ahead, toss everything together. If you try spooning the dressing over the salad, however, and tossing lightly as you serve it, I think you’ll find it both tastes and looks wonderful.

20 Comments

  1. You don’t even need the salt, really. You can dry roast them- I think one of the keys is not cutting into the actual beet before roasting- like you did leaving the rood and stem intact. I’ve even “roasted” beets in the crockpot- just putting the beets in and nothing else and they turned out great too. Thanks for another great recipe.

    Reply
  2. this is a really fancy and flavorful salad, alexandra. i think the dressing would compliment all kinds of different salad combinations, but it fits this concoction like a glove. excellent post!

    Reply
  3. I heard about salt roasting beetroot for the first time about 3 hours ago, watching a Jamie Oliver program. Now here it is again! The universe is clearly telling me to try it. It looks just beautiful!

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  4. The beets sound delicious and I will be trying this over the weekend. Just a thought about dressing the salad – because I prefer my greens lightly, but thoroughly dressed, I am going to see how it works to toss the greens and the beets with the dressing in two seperate bowls and then combine them on the plate.

    Thanks for the recipe.

    Reply
  5. I have been working my way through the beautiful repertory of recipes from your site, and the roasted beet salad was last night’s spectacular side – but really center – piece! So tasty! My boyfriend remarked that the process of salt roasting transformed the vegetable into a root he now likes!

    Reply
  6. We are eating this now. And this is the first time ever im enjoying goat cheese. I never liked it. And my husband too is so impressed, thank you!
    I used greens too and i didnt have shallots so i omitted them. Though im sure the vinaigrette would have tasted even better with it.

    Reply
  7. I love beets and this sounds delish. Just curious though… do you discard the salt afterwards or can you re-use it for the next time you roast beets or fish? Just seems like such a waste.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Luvie — it is a little wasteful bc the salt really can’t be reused. It turns into a sort of salt block and gets very crumbly and burnt in places, so it’s best to discard. A big box of kosher salt is relatively cheap, however, and you only use a thin layer, so as far as dollars go, you aren’t wasting too much…I’ll have to check the going price for a 3lb box of kosher salt the next time I get to the market to figure out a more precise cost estimate.

      Reply

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