Clever cooking techniques, make-ahead convenience, and lots of options add to the appeal of this vibrant salad. The versatile vinaigrette is an absolute keeper that comes together quickly with basic pantry items.
One of the first things I learned when I started The Fountain Avenue Kitchen in 2012 was just how polarizing certain foods can be. Facebook posts offered a convenient forum to share an opinion. Imagine an animated conversation between the lima bean lovers and haters at your family dinner table multiplied by a lot!
No doubt, the thrilling anticipation one person holds for the return of a seasonal favorite is often matched by someone else’s impassioned disdain.
Which foods come to mind? It would take a nanosecond for my younger son to shout, “sweet potatoes!” I’m guessing that pumpkin, or perhaps more specifically, all things “pumpkin spice” would surely top an unofficial list, along with Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and maybe mayonnaise?
I happen to enjoy them all. For the record, the two foods I haven’t learned to love－and I have truly tried－are liver and okra. (I have some funny stories I can tell about my attempts to make liver more palatable when it was prescribed for my low iron levels years ago!)
Of course, I fully encourage your thoughts on this subject in the comment section below. And since my analysis is anything but scientific, I did a little research. According to SpoonUniversity.com, there is an “official” top 10 list of the most polarizing foods, and they are as follows:
10. Brussels sprouts
1. Pineapple on pizza
The reason my mind ventured down this path in the first place is that a key ingredient in the following salad－beets－strikes me as one of those love-them-or-hate-’em vegetables. I did not adore this jewel-toned root veggie when I was young but was won over when served a simple salad of roasted beets, goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and mixed greens many years ago.
Over the years, I’ve also learned that how the beets are prepared makes a big difference. When roasted until tender but not at all mushy and then mixed with a handful of complementary ingredients, the naturally sweet, earthy flavor of beets will truly shine. The visual appeal provided by their vibrant color adds something special, too.
The inspiration for this salad came in the fall of 2014, when I was having dinner out with an old camp friend who came to visit. She ordered a beet and green bean salad for us to share as an appetizer, and it struck me as so much more than the sum of its parts. I replicated it soon after and have been enjoying it ever since.
The restaurant version used a sherry vinaigrette, which I was out of at the time. I substituted red wine vinegar, and later apple cider vinegar, which has become my go-to. To vary the flavor profile, you may experiment with one of these options in place of the apple cider vinegar, leaving the remaining ingredients unchanged.
My husband Jack doesn’t typically care for beets, but he remarks that for some reason he loves this salad. I’ve varied the recipe by adding baby spinach, arugula, or some of the beet greens when they look especially fresh. Roasted pepitas, walnuts, and smokehouse almonds offer tasty ways to vary the slivered almonds. Earlier in the summer, when I had a small amount of fresh peas from our garden, I added them to the mix.
When available, a mix of golden and red beets offers visual and flavor appeal. Similarly, a mix of wax and green beans may be used.
The last time I blistered the green beans, I moved them to the top rack when they were just short of done and broiled closer to the element for a minute. They developed beautiful golden brown color and tasted especially delicious. For one pound of green beans, I use 1 tablespoon of olive or avocado oil, ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, and a few hearty grinds of the pepper mill.
For added convenience, you may mix the vinaigrette, roast the beets and the green beans in advance so you can pull this dish together in a flash. The salad is delicious served cold or at room temperature. To complete the meal, I often serve with a pieced of seared salmon or roasted chicken. For a heartier meal, feel free to add a crusty roll, roasted potatoes, or corn on the cob when in season. Leftovers of all taste great!
The vinaigrette complements all sorts of vegetables and grains, from roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts to wild rice and quinoa. Experiment to create new favorite meals. For example, you can use it in place of balsamic vinegar in this satisfying Harvest Bowl.
- 1 pound roasted beets, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
- ¾ pound fresh green beans, trimmed and steamed or roasted until crisp tender (Blistered Green Beans are quick, easy, and delicious)
- Apple cider vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- ⅓ cup crumbled goat cheese (may substitute feta)
- ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted* or chopped salted almonds
- ¼ cup (60ml) apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s brand is a flavorful option)
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons (20g) honey
- 1 tablespoon (15g) Dijon mustard
- ⅓ cup (75ml) extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
For the vinaigrette: Combine all of the ingredients in a glass jar. Screw the lid on tightly and shake until the ingredients are blended. (Optionally, you may whisk together in a bowl, although the vigorous shaking helps to emulsify the dressing.) Store in the fridge, where the vinaigrette will keep for several weeks. Allow to sit and room temperature for a few minutes and then shake well before using. (Yield: slightly over ¾ cup, which is plenty for another salad or two)
For the salad: Place the beets and the green beans in a large bowl and drizzle with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Sprinkle with the almonds and goat cheese. Toss and serve immediately. Prep ahead tip: You may refrigerate the dressed beet and bean mixture, adding the cheese and almonds when ready to serve.
*Toasting raw nuts will crisp them and enhance their flavor. You may do this is a dry skillet, stirring until the nuts are lightly golden and smell good. Baking at 300℉ for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden is another option. To do this, simply spread the nuts in an even layer on an ungreased, rimmed baking sheet. Check a few minutes early to avoid burning. If you use nuts frequently, you can toast a larger quantity than need for a given recipe. Once cooled completely, refrigerate the unused portion in an airtight container where it will maintain freshness for a month or more.
A few more things…
•Prefer another nut－or no nuts? Walnuts complement nicely, as do pepitas (pumpkin seeds). A mix of several is fair game, too.
•When available, I’ve made this salad with a mix of golden beets and/or wax beans. The flavor change is modest and the visual appeal is heightened.
•If your beets include fresh greens, you may roughy chop them and add to the salad. I’ve also tossed in some arugula prior to serving. If you like this idea and expect leftovers, I recommend adding tender greens (like arugula; beet greens are heartier) only to the portion being consumed immediately, as they tend to wilt in the fridge over time.