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Summer salads may take the spotlight, but I find fall salads to be far more enjoyable. Specifically because they hold up so well in the fridge. Dress a piece of arugula and it wilts five minutes later. Dress a roasted beet and it'll be days before it even thinks of starting to allow its texture to decline.
There may be more than one way to cook a beet, but there's only one way that I go back to again and again. Boiling beets is fast and efficient, but it pains me to see all that wonderful beet juice going down the drain when I finally dump the liquid. Roasting them works alright, but they can end up dry and shriveled, and it takes literally* forever.
My method of choice is a hybrid. By placing the beets into a tightly sealed heavy-duty foil pouch and placing them in a hot oven, you create a sealed, steam-filled environment, giving you the fast-cooking benefits of a moisture (moist air is far more efficient at transferring heat than dry air), along with the flavor and texture benefits that come from trapping all of the aroma in that pouch along with the beets.
Added bonus: as soon as they're cooked, their peels slip straight off.
I like to accentuate the natural dirt-candy sweetness of beets with a lightly sweetened dressing, and honey is the natural choice. It makes a great emulsifier, which means that your oil and vinegar should come together into a nice sauce-like consistency without you having to strain your wrist.
Honey makes me think of almonds, and almonds make me think of Marcona almonds, so in they go, along with a handful of pomegranate seeds to give you distinct bursts of sweet juiciness as you work your way through the bowl. Celery leaves are an underutilized part of the staple vegetable. Let's put 'em to use here. And for some sharp bite, slices of mild white onion will do. I love the way they turn pale pink when you toss them with the beets.
Just those five ingredients, perfectly dressed, would be enough for a nice balanced side dish, but the whole point here is a salad you can eat for lunch or dinner. Quarters of hard-boiled egg and a few chunks of creamy goat cheese round out the plate. Eat it fresh, or let it sit overnight and eat if the next day (make sure to add the eggs at the end, unless you don't mind beet-stained pink eggs)—either way it'll be delicious.
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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.