Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Salad of Red and Golden Beets

    When I first tasted beets (at a college cafeteria), I thought they were terrible. I didn't taste anything but a strange sweetness and texture.  A few years later, I became a prep cook at a now-famous French-California cuisine restaurant in Berkeley where the menu changed daily. One spring day I had to bake and clean a couple cases of red and golden beets for a composed salad. I still remember my hands being completely stained red when it was done. However, the chef prepared them seasoned with red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil, then garnished with orange slices and zest. It was very simple, but attractive and delicious... and I re-discovered beets. It was such a different taste and texture from the beets at the college cafeteria, which typically served vegetables from a can.

Every so often I still see those canned beets at salad bars at corporate or college cafeterias. Some things never change. I don't make beet salad so often at home, but when I saw these beautiful beets at the farmers market last weekend, I wanted to make it at home.

Red and Golden Beet Salad
Recipe is adopted from Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables book

about 1 bunch (one pound) each red and golden beets
2 tablespoons red wine, or sherry or balsamic vinegar of your choice
1 shallot clove, skinned and chopped or finely sliced
3 tablespoons chopped chives
  salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

If you want to make it the Chez Panisse way (optional):
1/2 cup shelled walnuts, roasted a few minutes in the oven
2 blood oranges: With a sharp knife, trim off the top and bottom of each orange and pare off the the rest of the peel, making sure to remove all of the pith. Slice the oranges into 1/4 inch rounds.
2 tablespoons orange juice
zest of 1/2 orange
serve with garden lettuce or Belgian endive

Preheat the oven  to 400 F. Trim and wash the beets, place them in a baking pan with a splash of water, cover tightly with foil and roast about 40-45 minutes until they can be easily pieced through with a sharp knife. When beets are cool enough to handle, peel them and slice or cut into wedges. Place them in separate bowls (the red beet will color the other beets otherwise). Season both bowls of beets with the vinegar, salt, pepper and the olive oil, and the orange juice and zest if you are using. Arrange the beets on plates and garnish with the shallots and chives, like I did in the photo, or serve on a bed of garden lettuce or Belgian endive. Garnish with the roasted walnuts.


Tip: It is best to toss the beets with vinegar first and marinate for 5 minutes before adding the olive oil.

You may also serve this beet salad with some fresh goat cheese or feta cheese.


  1. I love beet salads...looks delicious!

  2. My mom refused to let beets enter our kitchen growing up but now I can't get enough. Especially when they are simple and roasted. This salad looks wonderful!

  3. Thank you for your comments. I am spoiled living in the Bay Area where weather is nice and varieties of fresh food are available almost year-round. However when I think about food, the first thing to come to mind is what’s in season. I grew up a big city where summer was hot and humid and winter was cold and dry (each season was very different). It is nothing like living in California. We had to dress differently and eat differently (even use different dinner wares), of course. I learned each best seasonal ingredients and how to cook them seasonally. Also I inherited the culture that the simplicity is important and aesthetic. French, Italy and Japanese cuisine shares those principal. You cannot really taste the food if you ignore season and also cook with too many ingredients and seasonings. I may be a bit traditionist but that is what I like to enjoy food.