With their long stems and bright greens, beets lure in quite a few people at the market. They pick them up but then put them down. On their faces I sometimes see the flashbacks to horrible childhood beet experiences, many beginning with the canned red ones. If you have such memories, I recommend the golden variety as the gateway beet that might just make you change your opinion.
In contrast to their red counterparts, golden beets are more mellow and slightly sweeter. They perk up with the addition of white wine vinaigrette and feta, making a great lunch salad or side dish. Since beets are filling but won’t leave you with the heavy filling of potatoes, start serving them now through the early fall.
4 medium golden beets
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
4 ounces feta
The first thing you will notice about whole raw beets is the rough skin that covers their colorful flesh. Rather than peel it away as you may for some root vegetable preparations, leave the beets intact and roast them to preserve as much of the flesh as possible. Once roasted, the skin will come right off, leaving you with whole, brightly colored beets.
Begin by scrubbing them and removing their greens. Leave a small amount of the stems attached to the top of each beet. With a flavor that is best described as mellow spinach, the greens can be reserved as sauteed as a separate dish.
While the oven preheats to 400 degrees, loosely wrap each scrubbed beet individually in foil and place them on a baking tray. Roast for about 50 minutes and remove when they are fork tender, checking them throughout to make sure they don’t become too soft.
Remove each beet from its foil packet and allow it to cool slightly. Use your hands alone or cover them with a towel to wipe off the skin, which should come off with minimal effort. At this point, they are so pretty that you might consider serving them whole, particularly if they are on the small side. They will be even more gorgeous once you slice into them and reveal their concentric golden circles.
Whisk together the olive oil and vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice the warm beets and cover them with the vinaigrette, stirring to coat completely. Toss with crumbled feta and serve room temperature or chilled slightly.
When you are in the mood for a little crunch, top this salad with toasted pine nuts. Since golden beets pair well with a variety of herbs, also experiment when your garden is in full swing. Try adding chives, basil, thyme, or tarragon for a different twist, and you can keep this salad fresh spring through fall.