Friday, March 22, 2013

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Candied Walnuts (and how I lost my mind)

When I was about 5 or so, my mom made me eat a beet.  I had the kind of parents who made you clean your plate and we were having beets that night.  I am pretty sure they were the canned variety and I sat there with a beet in my mouth, refusing to swallow it, for at least a half an hour.  I thought they were so disgusting, I couldn't imagine letting it go down the hatch.  If I would have been thinking less like a 5 year old, maybe I would've just hurried and swallowed it and not savored the horrible taste for quite as long.  Instead, I turned it into a traumatic moment and have steered clear of beets, in any form, since that day.  

Fast forward 20 or so years (I will never tell how many).  I've been trying to be better about eating healthy and someone told me that you should eat all the colors of the rainbow.  There aren't many things that are the color of beets and I decided that maybe I was an idiot when I was five and I needed to stop holding it against the beets.  

A few months ago, a friend was eating a beet and goat cheese salad.  When I wrinkled my nose at her and explained that beets were disgusting (maybe she didn't know), she told me I should try one..... It wasn't so bad!  Maybe I had grown up a bit and didn't need to hold on to my prejudices for life?  I set out to turn myself into a beet lover and since that salad hadn't been so bad, I thought I'd start with that.

I enjoyed this salad.  I enjoyed cooking beets for the first time (be ready!  Red gets everywhere!).  There wasn't really anything about this salad I didn't enjoy.  I am a reformed woman.  Or maybe I've lost my mind. It's hard to say.  This won't be the last time I eat beets, that's for sure.  (The 5 year old in me is throwing a hissy fit right now, while the ummm older me is proud of myself for not being such a baby!)

If you are new to beets like me, I read that the smaller ones have a more mild taste.  They only had bigger ones at the store so that's what I bought, but I am going to try a few smaller ones when I can find them.

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Candied Walnuts
2-3 Medium beets, trimmed and cut in half (if you're using smaller beets, use more)
1/2 cup walnuts
2 T sugar
4 oz goat cheese
4 cups baby greens (or whatever kind you like)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
juice from 1 orange
1/8 tsp dijion mustard
2 T olive oil
dash salt

In a saucepan, cover beets with water.  Bring to boil and simmer 20-30 minutes until beets are done.  Drain and let cool.  
While beets are cooking, add walnuts and sugar to a frying pan over med-high heat.  Stir and cook until sugar is melted and a caramel color.  It will start to stick to the walnuts.  Remove from heat immediately and spread on foil or baking sheet.  (Be careful the sugar will burn fast.  Once it's done, hurry and take it off.)  

For dressing:  Whisk balsamic vinegar, orange juice, mustard, olive oil and salt, set aside.

Once beets are cool, peel and dice or slice.

Assemble salad by placing 1 cup (or however much you want) lettuce on a plate, 1/4 of the beets, 1/4 of the walnuts, crumble 1/4 of the goat cheese over the salad and drizzle with dressing.  Serve.
Serves 4.
Source:  Inspired by these two recipes.

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