The Off-Campus Kitchen: Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

By Laura Bryn Sisson, The Dartmouth Staff | 10/3/12 6:00am

Outdoor farmer’s market season is winding down. This is the equivalent of snatching crack away from a toddler — me, of course, being the toddler. In the Bay Area, we have outdoor farmer’s markets at least four days a week, most of which run year-round. For me, the worst part of returning to Hanoveris that suddenly all the produce labeled “California-grown” ceases to be virtuously local, and instead becomes Bad and Unseasonal. It’s traumatic.

For this column, I’ll need to introduce one of my staple ingredients: beets. Now, I was scared of beets, too, when I came to Dartmouth. But in my time living with sustainably-minded people, there was no way beets wouldn’t grace the menu in the fall and winter.They’re local and they keep. Real beets are nothing like the fuschia monstrosities you’ve seen at salad bars.

They’re naturally quite sweet — they’re like candy in root-vegetable form. They’re also beautiful. My favorites are yellow beets, because they look like a sunrise when you cut them open (I swear, I’m completely sober as I write this. Beets are just that good.)

Beet and Goat Cheese salad— a dish you’ll see on many a restaurant menu, including Murphy’s, Canoe Club, and Market Table, but you can make it much more cheaply at home.

You’ll need:

  • Whatever in-season salad greens look best— I like spinach.

  • Nuts I like almonds, but whatever you have around or like best will work (pecans, walnuts, ect). Skip them if you don’t like them.

  • Goat cheese — Ideally a soft chevre with a lot of flavor, as opposed to a precrumbled variety. They generally come in cylinders, wrapped delicately in clear plastic.

  • Your favorite salad dressing I’m not a dressing person. It’s part of being picky. But what dressing-minded people tell me is best for this salad is a simple mix of good olive oil and vinegar.

  • Beets —one fist-sized beet will provide enough for one huge salad or two appetizer-size salads. If the beet you find is smaller, purchase more of them. They keep forever, so overbuying isn’t a disaster.

Now you have a choice: cook the beets in oil or water? I prefer oil, but if you’re watching your weight, water works fine. Beets can also be roasted, something I’ll go over in a later column, but sautéing them is faster. Add a few tablespoons of oil or water to a frying pan and turn on the heat to medium. Allow it to warm for about a minute, then add the beets. Cover the pan and cook for at least fifteen minutes, checking occasionally and stirring to ensure the beets don’t stick. You want the beets to be tender. If there’s liquid left over in the pan once the beets are cooked, drain it out.

While the beets are cooking, cut the nuts of your choice into nice garnish-sized pieces. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet or square of tinfoil, and bake them or toast them in a toaster oven. For a full-sized oven, I’d say about 400 degrees and five minutes of baking time, then check every subsequent two minutes. Remove the nuts when they are toasted to your liking.

Wash the greens and combine with the beets and the nuts. Add goat cheese in chunks—if you’ve got very creamy goat cheese, make slices, cut them in half, and add the globs to the salad. Toss with dressing, if desired.

Laura Bryn Sisson, The Dartmouth Staff