Candied Beet Salad

My son, Sam, who never eats salad declared this Candied Beet Salad to be the BEST salad ever!  What is it that makes it 1) appealing enough that he would even try it and 2) delicious enough that he would want to eat it over and over again?

Just looking at it, you can see that it’s so visually appealing:  orange & red caramelized beets sitting atop a bed of green arugula and watercress and topped with red cranberries and pomegranate seeds with a smattering of toasted pepitas and chunks of blue cheese.

Take a bite and you get all of those amazing flavors in one mouthful along with a balsamic fig vinaigrette that complements the salad beautifully.

So, let’s start at the beginning…the candied beets!

I love roasted beets.  Roasting them brings out a sweetness that is hard to beat (no pun intended).  Or so I thought.  After these beets get roasted, you coat them with a sauce of butter, maple syrup, orange juice & zest, plus a little cinnamon and cayenne.  Roast for another 10 minutes are so and the sauce starts to caramelize.  It gets sticky and thick.  I can not begin to tell you what this does to these beets.  You just have to try this recipe!

The question I get asked a lot is do you have to peel the beets.  I say no…not with the baby beets.  The skin isn’t thick like on the larger beets, and it’s a pain to try to peel them.  I leave the skin on and it’s just like leaving the skin on a carrot.  Once it’s roasted, it becomes a textural part of the vegetable.  So, I say leave it on, but do what makes you happy.  If you’re like me, you’ll make extra beets to have in the fridge to snack on…they are that good!

The pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, get a special treatment as well…while the beets are roasting, toast the pepitas in a small saucepan with olive oil and add a bit of smoked paprika.  Watch them closely so that they don’t burn, and be sure to tip them out of the pan as soon as they are done.  They will continue to cook in the hot pan, even if they are off the heat.  Give them a little sprinkle of salt and you have amazing crunchies for the salad.  Smoked paprika is very different from regular paprika.  I highly suggest that you invest in a bottle, if you don’t own it.  You’ll find so many opportunities to use it.

The dressing is one that you will use over and over again.  It’s a simple balsamic vinaigrette that is elevated with lemon juice and fig preserves.  The depth of flavor with the preserves is a beautiful addition to this vinaigrette and what makes the salad really shine.

So, enjoy this lovely salad.  It accompanies any main course, and can be enjoyed with a piece of grilled chicken sliced and fanned over the top of it for a light dinner.

Candied Beet Salad

Makes: 4-6 Servings

Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

6 small to medium mixed color beets, quartered

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

Kosher salt

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp cayenne

4 cups baby arugula

4 cups watercress

4 ounces crumbled blue cheese

Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Balsamic Fig Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp fig preserves

Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the beets with 2 tablespo0ns olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Spread out the beets in an even layer. Roast for 30-35 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium. When it shimmers, add the pumpkin seeds and paprika. Toast the seeds for 3-5 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Remove from the heat and add a pinch of salt. Set the mixture aside on a plate to cool.

In a small saucepan, combine the butter, maple syrup, orange zest and juice, cinnamon, and cayenne. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

When the beets are tender, remove them from the oven, pour over the maple-butter sauce, and toss to coat. Roast for about 10 minutes more, until the beets are beginning to caramelize. Watch closely, because the sugar can burn fast. Let cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the arugula and watercress. Add the roasted beets and pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle with the blue cheese, pomegranate seeds, and cranberries.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, fig preserves, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve the salad with the vinaigrette alongside.

Recipe from Half Baked Harvest


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