Beet Walnut Salad

Beets are one of those beautiful root veggies that I love, but often forget about. When I remember to buy them (or when they show up in my winter food co-op) I feel happy. Their taste, color, and texture are all things to feel glad about. I must admit, though, the one thing I don't like about beets is peeling them. But all the good things about them more than outweigh the 10 minutes it takes to get their skins off.

Beets are low in calories and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The vivid color of beets scream antioxidants. They also have high levels of niacin, vitamin C, and potassium. Beets are good for the blood: they help fight coronary artery disease and stroke. Their texture is firm and smooth, and their flavor is rich, earthy, and slightly sweet.

I found a simple recipe by Alice Waters for Beet Salad that allowed the main ingredient to shine through. I added some goat cheese and walnuts because A) they pair so well with beets, and B) they're delicious. Plus, the goat cheese turns a shocking shade of pink, which I love.

I used walnut oil in this salad because I recently bought some as an impulse buy (you can just imagine my delight when I found a way to use it!). If you don't have it, you can use olive oil instead. If you happen upon beets with the greens still attached, wash the greens, chop them, and saute them in oil. Toss them with the finished salad.

Beet Walnut Salad
Adapted from Alice Water's recipe for Beet Salad
Serves 4

1 pound beets
Scrub beets. Place in casserole dish and add 1/8 inch of water to the bottom. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-60 minutes, depending on how large the beets are. Beets are done when you can pierce them easily with a fork. Let cool, then trim the ends and "slip the skins off." (I have not had luck with "slipping" the skins off. I usually resort to a paring knife as an aid, but hopefully you'll have better luck). Chop beets into small wedges and add to large bowl.

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons walnut oil (or olive oil)
Mix together and toss with beets.

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup goat cheese
Toast walnuts on a baking sheet for about 7 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool. Toss with beets, and crumble goat cheese on top.