This recipe rolled right off my fingers. Literally. A fellow blogger had hit me up asking for a favorite beet salad recipe. Initially, I had pointed him to some beet salad recipes that I’ve bookmarked or have in my stand-by recipe arsenal. No sooner had I forwarded him the links did I mention that I really love herbs with beets. Tarragon and beets are a combination I just love. Maybe a little vinaigrette. Don’t forget the cheese, though. Goat cheese – a given. Feta, maybe. No wait – ricotta salata. Nice texture, a little tang and salt but not overwhelming. Yes, that’s the way to go. We parted way and I’m guessing he went on to make his beet salad for dinner that night. On the other hand, this recipe rattled around in my head for a good week or so before it came together on a plate.
In my continued efforts to use up ingredients around the house, I turned to quinoa to bulk this salad up. Make it a little more filling and amp up the nutritional value. I’ve met more than one person who says they just don’t quite “get” quinoa yet – in this application, it adds more substance…a little texture…and a nuttiness that goes with the sweetness and earthiness of the beets. A handful of roasted pepitas (I’m conquering the pantry 1/4 cup at a time!) was the missing link – crunch and a bit of salt that keeps from having to add a lot of salt in the seasoning process. Served slightly cool or room temperature but not cold, this is easily a main course vegetarian meal but would make an awesome side dish for some roasted meats.
Golden Beet and Quinoa Salad – serves 4 as a hearty side dish/salad course
– For the beets: Preheat the oven to 375. In a foil pouch (or in a baking dish you cover with foil – your choice), drizzle 1 tbsp. of olive oil over the beets. Wrap tightly with the foil and bake in the preheated oven until they’re tender – pierce with the end of a sharp knife to test – which should take about 60 minutes. This is dependent on the size of your beets. Once tender, remove from oven and allow to cool. Peel & discard the skins and dice into 1/2″ – 1″ squares.
– While the beets are roasting, you can cook the quinoa. Bring 1 cup water or vegetable stock up to a boil. Add the quinoa, boil for 1-2 minutes, then turn heat down to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes until tender. Remove from heat and allow to sit covered until ready to use.
– To assemble the salad: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the vinegar and the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the beets and toss to coat. Next, add the chopped tarragon and the quinoa. Mix together and add the pepitas & ricotta salata. Mix gently to combine. Taste for salt level then season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper. Serve at room temperature. This will keep for a day or so but I advise bringing it up closer to room temperature from the fridge before serving.