Beets are somewhat intimidating, divisive vegetables. Kind of surprising for what is nothing more than a purplish-red bulb. I’ve heard people say all manner of terrible things about beets. “They taste like dirt” is the most common of these insults, but I’ve heard others. Let’s just say that beets are simply a nonstarter for lots of people. They’re something you’d never order at a restaurant and never dream of buying at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
I’m really really hoping this salad is going to change all that. At least for a couple of people.
I’ve been making this salad “freehand” for some time now. It’s changed a little over time, but not too much. You can insert or leave out any of the ingredients you’d like. Except the beets. If you leave out the beets, you wouldn’t actually have a salad. Or, at least, I don’t consider a pile of lightly-dressed asparagus, chopped onion, parsley, nuts and goat cheese to be a salad. Maybe there are those who differ.
A little note about asparagus: I used to be an asparagus size-ist. It’s true. If the asparagus in my store was any thicker than a pencil, then I just wasn’t buying it. I refused to pay for something if I had to cut off and discard half of the stalks I’d purchased because they were so tough. But here’s a pro tip: you can use a potato peeler to remove the tough skin at the bottom of asparagus stalks leaving only the tender flesh below. That’s right, y’all. Just peel it away. Save money and eat more veggies. That’s the kind of pro tip I like.
As with the ingredients in this recipe, you can really change up the cooking method if you’d like as well. If you’re a die-hard veggie boiler, go for it. Like to roast? Have at it! For me, steaming is the best method here (and what you’ll find in the recipe below) because I want the cleanest taste of the vegetables to come through so I get that beet-earthiness in every bite.
A note on a somewhat unusual ingredient we’re gonna use in this recipe…
Cream of balsamic is a thick, creamy version of balsamic vinegar (similar to a reduction) that is often infused with fruit or nut flavors. Here’s the one I use (I paid $7.95 for one bottle). I’ve noticed creams like this one popping up in grocery stores along with other specialty Italian items like capers and polenta (that I just consider kitchen staples), so check in those areas of your grocery store or call around to some kitchen shops to see if they carry it.
Regular balsamic vinegar is not going to work here because it doesn’t have the thickness or sweetness of cream of balsamic. But if you love balsamic, believe me when I tell you that any odyssey you find yourself on to track down a bottle of cream is going to be well worth it. Happy hunting!
- 4 large beets (or 6 medium, or 8 small)
- 1 pound asparagus
- 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp minced flat leaf parsley
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 2/3 cup chopped pecans (or any nut you'd like)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 3 tbsp cream of balsamic (use any flavor you like, but I prefer a berry infusion)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- squeeze of lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 oz. goat cheese, chilled
- Peel beets and chop into 1-inch cubes. Steam beets for 12-15 minutes or until fork-tender. Set aside to cool.
- Peel any tough ends from asparagus stalks and cut into 1-inch pieces. Steam asparagus for 6-8 minutes or until fork tender. Set aside to cool.
- Place cooled beets and asparagus, onion, and parsley together in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to combine.
- Set a skillet over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes. Turn heat down to low and add chopped nuts. Toast nuts for about 4-5 minutes or until you notice the nuts turning golden brown and just begin to smell a nutty aroma.
- Remove nuts from heat immediately and add maple syrup in a slow, steady stream. Syrup will bubble and boil briefly, so be prepared! Stir nuts for several minutes allowing the heat to reduce the syrup. Turn syrup-coated nuts out onto a sheet of parchment paper or buttered aluminum foil and set aside to cool.
- Drizzle vegetables with cream of balsamic. olive oil and lemon juice. Toss to coat. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon portions of salad into bowls or onto plates. Using the tines of a small fork, scrape the surface of the log of goat cheese over the plated salad to create crumbles. Do not add the goat cheese before serving - it will become pink and unsightly from being tossed with the beets. Finish your dish with a few candied nuts and maybe another small drizzle of cream of balsamic.