Vegan: Beet and Citrus Salad with Pinenut Vinaigrette

Roasted Beet Salad

Slow-roasting beets brings out their candy-rich flavor. The brightness of orange and grapefruit balance the earthiness of the beets and pine nuts and a honey-walnut oil vinaigrette brings out more nutty sweetness. Get the recipe!

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Note: For the four weeks between January 14th and February 11th, I'm adopting a completely vegan lifestyle. Every weekday I'll be updating my progress with a diary entry and a recipe. For past posts, check here!

Beets get their fair share of criticism from children and adults alike, and it's easy to see why if you, like me, were exposed to the canned variety as a kid. Those things are not easy to like. A freshly roasted beet, on the other hand, is something quite different. Sweet as candy, rich and earthy, with a great sorta-soft-sorta-crisp texture, they're one of my favorite vegetables to work with. I make some variation of this salad a few times a year and it's one of my wife's favorites. Just like her, it's pretty, colorful, and best served at room temperature.

You can boil beets if you'd like, but the process will rob them of flavor (notice how pink that water gets? That's flavor going right down the drain). I've found that the best way to cook them is in the oven, in an airtight foil pouch. They steam as they cook, heating up the air in the pouch, and allowing them to cook faster with minimal moisture loss. Because you're using a dry cooking method, they barely lose any juices or flavor, and the foil pouch is a great way to add aromatics; A few sprigs of thyme or rosemary, some black pepper and olive oil, and perhaps some citrus peel.

Beets and citrus are a classic combination, and luckily, we're right in the middle of citrus season. This salad combines grapefruit, orange, roasted beets, and bit of arugula for some peppery kick (you can use whatever herb or salad green you'd like instead). I like to serve nuts with my beets, which usually means hazelnuts, but in this case, I've gone with pine. A vinaigrette made with sherry vinegar, shallots, walnut oil, and a touch of agave nectar sweetens the whole thing.