Recipe: Roasted Beet Salad with Pears, Walnuts and Blue Cheese

As a kid I didn’t really like beets.  I always saw them at salad bars and didn’t really understand their purpose.  They were always located at the end of the bar next to the mandarin oranges and whipped cream with jello.  They were never particularly attractive sitting in a tub of their red juice.  It wasn’t until recently that I discovered how tasty they could be in a salad until a local cafe here in Shanghai turned me onto them with their Wagas Salad.

When I was at Mercato a few weeks ago, (For the third time, FYI. The food was good but service still terrible) we ordered their Roasted Beet Salad with Market Apple and Pear, Spiced Walnuts and Blue Cheese as an appetizer.  It was lovely so I wanted to recreate it at home.

For some reason the deep reddish purple color of beets reminds me of fall, but in fact beets are a root vegetable available year round.  The colors are so pretty on a plate and elegant to serve to dinner guests.

Roasted Beet Salad with Pears, Walnuts and Blue Cheese:
Prep time: 1.5 hours | Cook Time: 20 minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Serves: 4

1-2 Medium sized beets about 250g each
1 large crisp pear (I used crown pears)
Baby red romaine or baby spinach
Crumbled blue cheese
Kosher Salt
Fresh ground pepper
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Disposable gloves to handle the beets

Note:  I don’t usually measure ingredients when I make a salad, so just add a little here and there as you see fit or to taste.

1.  Prepare the beets.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F or 204 degrees C.  First, wash and scrub off any dirt from the beets but do not peel.  Pat them dry.  Now get a large piece of foil.  Lay both beets on half of the foil and fold the other half of the foil over the beets.  Fold the three edges of the foil to create a pocket or envelope, make sure it’s sealed so the juices don’t drip out into the oven.  You can place them on a baking sheet or just pop them directly onto the rack in the oven.  Roast for about 45 minutes to an hour until fork tender (you can check them at 45 minutes and if the fork pierces easily then it’s done).

2.  Allow the beets to rest in the foil for another 10 minutes and then open up the foil packet and allow them to cool.  Once cool enough to touch put on some latex gloves so they the beets don’t stain your hands.  Go ahead and wrap a cutting board in saran wrap so the beets don’t stain everything.  Using a pairing knife, peel the skin from the beets.  It should remove easily.  Cut beets into one inch pieces.  They should be soft to eat but not mushy.

3.  Prepare the other ingredients.  Rinse your frisee and baby romaine and dry in salad spinner.  Chop the frisee into about 2 inch pieces or bite size.  Leave baby romaine as is unless they are bigger leaves then you can chop them into smaller pieces. Wash, core and chop pear into one inch pieces. Leave the skin on.  Crumble the blue cheese, chop large walnuts in half cross-wise.

4.  Assemble the salad.  In a large mixing bowl, throw in two handfuls of frisee and one handful of romaine.  There should be more frisee than romaine.  Add about 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts.  Season with a few pinches of salt and ground pepper.  Toss to mix.  Add the crumbled blue cheese (about 1/4 cup) and chopped pears, toss again to combine.  Plate the salad.  Add the beets but do not toss or it will make your salad red. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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