Is there any vegetable more beautiful than a beet? For the longest time, I grew up thinking of beets as canned vegetables, things to be picked off of my baby greek salad from Coney Island. Little did I know that I could get a fresh bunch, roast them, and have a sweet, caramelized, vibrantly colored treat that also happens to be full of all kinds of nutrients. You can pair them with rice for a hearty cool weather dinner, pulse them into a pesto that is great as a pasta or pizza sauce, or, in this case, use them as the star ingredient in a fresh summer salad. Beautiful, nutritious, and delicious, they are a staple in our house and the star of this salad.
I try to shop local as much as I can. It’s better for the environment, you get to support local farms, and you get access to all kinds of fresh produce you don’t see in big grocery stores. Side note: hooray for organizations out there that are trying to make sure everyone has access to affordable fresh produce. When we had a CSA subscription on the west coast, I learned how to cook with a whole bunch of produce I wouldn’t have picked up for myself, like turnips, rutabagas, tomatillos, and especially beets. I’ve tried to keep up this eating with the seasons and eating local ethos as we’ve moved (and moved again), and I know I’m a better cook because of it.
I was so happy to find a small farmer’s market near us on Thursday afternoons. We hit the witching hour of peak crankiness in the late afternoon here, and I like having an excuse to get the kids out of the house, get fresh food in their mouths, and get my grocery shopping partly done before the weekend. On our last trip there were some beautiful looking golden beets that were calling my name, and since I am a sucker when the kids ask for vegetables, we ended up with two bunches. Golden beets have a slightly mellower taste than the more familiar red variety, but they have a nutty flavor similar to a butternut squash, while still being earthy and sweet. I decided to make one bunch the star of an easy, beautiful weeknight salad.
The rest of the ingredients in this salad aren’t slouches either; the walnuts are cooked with butter and brown sugar to bring a sweet crunch, and the mozzarella is fresh and creamy. I used a mix of butter, red leaf, and romaine lettuce, but you could use whatever you prefer. I think the other ingredients are strong enough to stand up to arugula or kale. If you’re looking for more protein, some roasted chickpeas or simple roast chicken would be great additions as well.
The dressing is a simple creamy lemon vinaigrette, with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, dijon mustard, yogurt and a pinch of salt. You could add some chopped shallots or garlic for more bite, but I thought the brightness of the lemon was enough to bring out the sweetness of the other ingredients. My preferred way of mixing a homemade dressing is in a mason jar; you can add all the ingredients and give it a good shake and get everything emulsified. You could also use a whisk or even an immersion blender.
This salad is crunchy, creamy, sweet, and full of fresh and healthy produce. It looks fancier than it really is (my favorite kind of recipe!) and is perfect for a healthy weeknight dinner.
- 8 oz rinsed and chopped romaine, butter, or red leaf lettuce, or a mix
- 3 golden beets, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 8 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 1 lemon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ cup plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the peeled and chopped beets on the sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, and mix with your hands until the beets are coated. Roast the beets for 25 minutes, or until tender.
- To toast the walnuts, melt the butter in a large pan. Add in the walnuts and sprinkle with brown sugar. Stir with a spatula until the walnuts are coated, and cook for a few minutes, until toasty but not burnt.
- To make the dressing: combine the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl or mason jar. Shake or whisk vigorously to combine. Add the dijon mustard, yogurt, and honey and shake or whisk vigorously again; it will take at least thirty seconds to combine and become smooth. If you have extra and store it in the fridge it will separate; simply shake or whisk again to recombine it.
- Combine the lettuce, beets, walnuts, and cheese in a serving bowl. Toss to combine. Drizzle with the dressing and serve.