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.
  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 45 min
  • Prep: 10 min
  • Inactive: 5 min
  • Cook: 1 hr 30 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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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

1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange

1 shallot, minced

1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted

1 cup loosely packed watercress

4 ounces blue cheese, such as Roth Kase Buttermilk Blue or Maytag

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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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