Raw Beet Salad with Feta, Walnuts and Beet Greens
I just bought some gorgeous beets from the farmers market and it's time to use them all up! We get a lot of questions on using up parts of vegetables that often get ignored or discarded, from beet and radish greens to kale and broccoli stems. Here's an easy dish that uses both the beet roots and the beet greens. I don't like the beet stems as much in this dish, since it's a raw salad and they can be tough, but you can pickle them or saute them similarly to other Stems and Stalks.
For this fresh and flavorful dish, you want baby or young early-season beets with vibrant green bunches of leaves. The beets pictured below, from Mayflor Farms in Atlanta, GA, include both the common red Merlin beets (the burgundy colored ones) and the pink and white-striped Chioggia or Candy Cane beets (the bright magenta ones). With beets this young and fresh, I didn't bother peeling them. Cut a slice and taste the skin - if it doesn't stand out as tough or unpleasant, just give the beets a quick scrub.
You should know that this is not really a salad for the faint of heart - the raw beets have a pronounced earthy taste and the greens are lightly bitter. That being said, the feta cheese and the creamy dressing go a long way to offset the strong vegetal flavors, and you can tone down the greens by mixing in lots of other milder lettuces. My husband isn't huge on big raw salads, but he still liked this one. Give it a try - you might be surprised!
The Rough Recipe
This made enough salad for a late afternoon snack for 4 people and only took about 15 minutes. I made the salad up as I went, so the amounts are just a guesstimate - I basically included enough of each item to make it look even and balanced in the bowl, which translated reasonably well to having a balanced amount of each ingredient in each bite.
Here's what you'll need:
For the salad:
- 4 small early season beets, trimmed
- A handful of beet leaves, roughly chopped
- A few handfuls of other milder lettuces - I used both spinach and mache that I had in the fridge
- 1/3 cup (or so) of feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 cup (roughly) of walnuts, broken into small pieces
For the dressing:
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Fresh lemon juice, or another acid such as apple cider vinegar
- Plain whole yogurt (Greek or regular)
- Kosher salt
Cut the beets into very thin slices (a mandoline is quite useful here) so the raw roots are easier to eat. Toss the beet greens with some other salad greens, and put them into a wide, shallow bowl. Scatter the sliced beets on top, then top with crumbled feta and walnuts.
To make the dressing, you'll want to follow the basic vinaigrette rule of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid (or 2 parts oil if you like a really zippy dressing). I just pick a clear container and eyeball it as I pour, but if a bit of precision would help, try 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Then stir in a few tablespoons of yogurt and a pinch of salt, and taste. A teaspoon or so of Dijon mustard wouldn't hurt, nor would a minced clove of garlic for oomph or a squeeze of honey to contrast the bitterness. Taste and adjust as necessary - the consistency and flavor will depend on your yogurt choice. You could also try the Buttermilk Vinaigrette here, or any vinaigrette of your choice. Just keep in mind that a bit of creaminess partners nicely with the assertive flavors of the raw beets.
Drizzle on dressing, toss the salad, and taste. If the salad tastes a bit too intense, try an extra drizzle of olive oil and another sprinkle of salt. Enjoy!