When I was in Seattle for the BlogHer conference, I had lunch with my friend Cheryl Sternman Rule, author of the cookbook Ripe. Her friend, a Seattle local, had recommended a place called Steelhead Diner in the Pike Place Market. This was no ordinary diner! We had a terrific meal. One of the highlights was a Beet Tartare salad– beets, chopped into small bits like beef tartare, served over arugula and topped with crumbled blue cheese. I loved the sweetness of the beets and the bold blue cheese– the combination was awesome. I made a mental note to make my own version of the dish at home. This recipe is the result.
Roasting the beets makes them juicy and succulent. If you’ve only boiled beets in the past, you’re going to flip over the roasting method. It draws so much more flavor out of those beautiful, colorful beets. If you’ve never roasted beets before, click here for a tutorial. I dressed the beets in balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil for a rustic sweet-tart flavor. Knowing many of you aren’t fans of blue cheese (it’s certainly an acquired taste), I’ve used goat or feta cheese here. You can use either goat or feta, both will work great. I prefer the salty tang of feta, it goes really well with the sweetness of the beets. At the end, I felt like a bit of crunch might be nice, so I quickly candied some chopped nuts on the stovetop with maple syrup and a small dash of cayenne pepper for a touch of heat.
If you’d like to shape the salad into a circle, use a cake ring or some sort of open-ended ring to gently pack the salad into, then slide the ring off before serving. If you don’t have access to this kind of ring, I’ve heard of people using clean tuna cans for this purpose (I haven’t tried it myself). Use an can opener to cut off both the top and the bottom of the can, then use it to mold your salad– watch out, those open cans can be sharp! The important thing is that the interior of the ring be smooth, with no rough edges to catch on the salad, so it slips off easily. You can also purchase a cake ring at any specialty kitchen store. Or, you can mound the salad naturally onto the plate… who says we need to be so fancy?? It will still be beautiful and taste amazing!
This salad has texture and so many flavors– soft, crunchy, sweet, salty, tangy, and just a tiny bit spicy. It’s a serious party in your mouth, and a fabulous starter to a meal. You can roast the beets ahead of time, dress them, and let them marinate in the fridge for up to 24 hours. The rest of the salad takes less than 10 minutes to prepare. Enjoy!
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- 3 large red beets (2 lbs. total), roasted (for roasting instructions, click here)
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- Small dash of cayenne pepper
- 2 1/2 cups arugula
- 6 oz goat or feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/4 cups)
- Peel the roasted beets and let them cool to room temperature. Dice them into very small cubes.
- Drizzle the diced beets with balsamic and olive oil. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. At this point, you can refrigerate the salad till ready to serve, if you plan to make ahead. The salad is good both at room temperature and chilled. I prefer it chilled.
- When you're ready to serve, place the chopped nuts into a skillet. Toast over medium heat for 4-5 minutes till toasted and fragrant. Watch closely to make sure the nuts and their skins don't burn.
- When nuts are toasted, add maple syrup and a dash of cayenne to the skillet (only a small dash of cayenne-- it's spicy stuff!). Stir well as the syrup heats up and begins to boil. Let the syrup continue to boil for 1-2 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove skillet from heat. Let the nuts cool enough to touch comfortably. Break them apart into small candied bits.
- Assemble your salads. Place a handful of arugula on each plate.
- Mound a portion of beets onto the arugula-- about 1/2 cup per salad. I used a ring to help shape the salad into a neat circle.
- Sprinkle a portion of goat cheese or feta on top of each portion of beets-- about 2 tbsp per salad.
- Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of candied nuts on top of each portion of cheese.