Slow-Roasted Beets with Blue Cheese, Watercress and Toasted Walnuts

I love using vegetables people don't think they like or didn't like as children, such as beets and Brussels sprouts, to show people how fantastic the vegetables can be when they're handled right. Beets especially are a great starter vegetable for kids because they're so sweet. When the spring and summer vegetables--fava beans, peas, corn and tomatoes--have ended, that's when I turn to beets to fill the void; for me they're fall and winter vegetables. This is a straightforward beet salad we've done since the original Lola: sweet roasted beets with peppery watercress, tangy blue cheese and some crunch and nuttiness from walnuts, all tied together by a sweet and acidic vinaigrette using orange, honey, balsamic (the better your balsamic, the better your salad will be) and extra-virgin olive oil. With big vegetable salads like this, or with big tomato salads, I like to serve lots of vinaigrette so that the salad is very juicy. Because the vinaigrette is not highly acidic, you can use it plentifully; the acidity of the cheese, such as the Buttermilk Blue from Roth Kase in Wisconsin, picks up the slack.

TOTAL TIME: 1 hr 45 min
Prep: 10 min
Inactive Prep: 5 min
Cook: 1 hr 30 min
 
YIELD: 4 servings
LEVEL: Easy

ingredients

  • 3 medium golden beets
  • 3 medium red beets
  • 1 head garlic, halved, plus 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey
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Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a shallow baking dish large enough to accommodate all of the beets, place the golden and red beets and the garlic head halves. Ad the thyme, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add enough water to reach 1/4 inch up the sides of the pan. Cover the pan snugly with foil and roast until the beets are tender--a sharp knife will slide through to the center of each beet with little resistance when done--1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the foil and allow the beets to cool only slightly, until you can handle them with a towel. Trim the root and stem ends from each beet and peel them using the towel to rub the skins off. Cut each beet into wedges.

In a large bowl, combine the honey, balsamic, orange zest and juice, shallots, minced garlic and a pinch of salt and whisk to incorporate. Check for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil.

Add the beets and walnuts to the bowl, tossing gently to coat with the vinaigrette. Taste again for seasoning and adjust if needed. Add the watercress and gently toss to combine. Crumble the cheese into the salad. Finish with a few grinds of pepper if desired.

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  • on July 07, 2013

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    I love beets and had to try the recipe. Roasting the beets in a thyme & garlic liquid was a tasty way of preparing the vegetable. However, by the time I prepared the dressing and tossed all the ingredients together, the final presentation didn't have the taste I was expecting. My husband didn't like it and stopped eating his salad. I ate the blue cheese along with the beets so I wouldn't waste the whole thing. I will not be making this again. Sorry it didn't turn out for us.

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  • on February 26, 2013

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    I made this dish for a health conscious foody. I followed the recipe with no changes. She loved it as did her children. So did my wife and the other guests. I served this with a Tri Tip roast. My guests were very complimentary. I will put this on the table again!

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  • on November 19, 2012

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    So tasty! Beets smell so good when they come out roasted with the garlic and parsley. You pour the viniagrette over the warm chopped beets and the beets just absorb that flavor. Michael is right - the blue cheese is necessary for it acidity. Watercress is wonderful too. My boyfriend said this was the best salad he ever had. We made it with the chicken thighs and spicy kale recipe. Both went into the salad first and nearly forgot about the chicken! I think this would be a great side to any red meat, too.

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