Tommy celebrated a birthday this past Saturday – the big 29! Because we were going to be in Cape Cod on his actual birthday, I wanted to make him a special dinner prior to our departure.
The appetizer portion of our dinner featured one of Tommy’s favorite foods – beets. The guy just can’t get enough of the variety of colors and sizes available at the farmers’ market. As such, I have been making lots of beet salads this summer.
My favorite beet salad preparation involves using creamy goat cheese, crunchy hazelnuts (sometimes called filbert nuts at the grocery store) and fresh basil. I then drizzle everything with a homemade balsamic mustard vinaigrette.
Now don’t be intimidated by the “homemade” vinaigrette. It is literally the easiest dressing one could possibly make as it involves olive oil, balsamic, dijon mustard and salt and pepper shaken up in a mason jar. And it is so good, you would never even consider using the bottled stuff again.
For Tommy’s birthday, I also added some farm fresh arugula to the mix because the peppery lettuce really makes everything better.
If you are concerned that your family and friends might not love beets that much, I would suggest buying light colored ones. The lighter the beet, the more mild the flavor (think white, yellow or light red. The deep purple ones definitely have the strongest flavor). I have served this salad to self proclaimed non-beet lovers and have gotten rave reviews! So I really encourage you to try this yourself, even if you aren’t sure about this sweet root veggie.
Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Hazelnuts, Basil and Arugula
Serves 4 as an Appetizer
- 4 medium sized beets, any color, sliced
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil, chopped
- 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
- 4 cups arugula
- 1/2 cup balsamic
- 2 TB dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup olive oil
To cook the beets, place them in a large sauce pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Once at a boil, add a small handful of salt, cover and cook on low heat for 30-45 minutes (depending on size of the beets) until they are fork tender. Drain, cool, and peel the beets.
To make the dressing, add the olive oil, balsamic, mustard and salt and pepper to a small jar and shake vigorously to combine. You can also whisk everything in a bowl, but I find the jar method to be more fun!
To toast the hazelnuts, add them to a dry sauté pan and cook on medium high heat until they are slightly toasted (make sure not to burn!). Allow to cool slightly and then peel. Hazelnuts have a very thin skin on them that comes off easily once they are toasted. Carefully give them a medium chop.
Once the beets have cooled, slice them into 1/3 inch slices. For a nice presentation, I like to overlap different colors of beets on top of each other. If serving on individual salad plates, it looks nice to arrange them in a circle. If serving on one large platter, I arrange the overlapping beets up in long straight lines.
Season the beets with salt and pepper and drizzle with the enough dressing so that there is a bit on each bite. Top with the chopped hazelnuts, crumbled goat cheese and fresh chopped basil.
In a separate bowl, mix the arugula with enough dressing to coat, but not over dress! Toss together and then add on top of the beets.