Heirloom beets are showing up in spectacular colors at the farmers’ markets- golden, red, deep purple, and candy cane stripe. Beets with firm, glossy leaves offer a bonus: delicious cooking greens.
Roasting the beet roots intensifies their earthy flavors. Cut off the tops and save them in a plastic bag to cook later. Cut the root tips off too. Then wrap the beets tightly in foil and bake in a hot oven (400°F, or at whatever temperature you are cooking something else) until tender when pierced with a small sharp knife. After the beets cool slightly, the skin will pull off easily. The cooked beets can be stored in the fridge for later use.
For a memorable spring salad, toss bite-sized pieces of roasted beets with lettuce, and a mustardy vinaigrette, and then sprinkle with feta cheese and walnuts. Any salad greens are tasty with the beets, but I am partial to a blend I find at Maggie’s Farm stand at many farmers’ markets. It is called stellar mix, and is a whimsical combination of tender baby lettuces, baby herbs, and a few edible flower petals. To reduce dishwashing chores, whisk the vinaigrette in the bottom of the salad bowl, and then add the beets and lettuces.
I turned the beet greens into a treat for brunch on Sunday, and it took all of 10 minutes from start to finish. Sauté a chopped shallot and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes in olive oil in a heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat until the shallots start to soften. Chop the beet greens; add to the skillet and sauté until they start to soften. Push the greens to one side of the pan, add a little more olive oil, and then break eggs into the cleared side of the pan for fried eggs. Sprinkle the eggs and greens with salt and pepper, cover and cook until the eggs are done to your taste. Serve the greens and eggs atop toasted bread, or with toasted bread on the side.
Beet, Feta, and Walnut Salad
- 1-2 beets
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons Sherry wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ small shallot, minced (optional)
- Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 cups baby lettuce
- ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut off the beet tops, wrap in a plastic bag and refrigerate for another use. Cut off the root tips. Wrap the beets in foil, place on a small baking pan and roast until tender when pierced with a small sharp knife, about 1 hour. Unwarp. When cool enough to handle, pull off the peels, using a small sharp knife. Cut the beets into bite sized pieces.
- In the bottom of a salad bowl, combine the mustard and vinegar and whisk to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil. Mix in the shallot. Season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Add the beets and toss to coat. Add the lettuce and toss to coat. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Sprinkle with feta and walnuts and serve.