I serve this salad with all kinds of things. This week I'm eating it alongside simple brown basmati rice with some kelp crunchies and the steamed beet greens on top. I've been doing so much Valentine's Day baking this week, and consequently way too much sampling. All I want to eat is simple, healthy food for dinner. This salad is also lovely in the summer with grilled fish or vegetables or as a picnic salad alongside sandwiches.
I love beets. Well, I should say I love roasted beets which are a far cry from those soggy, flavorless boiled beets of my childhood or worse yet, pickled beets.... shudder. I especially enjoy golden beets as I think their flavor is slightly sweeter and milder than red beets but buy whatever looks best at the market. This week at my market, the red beets were beautiful so that's what I'm using here. If you can find them try Chioggia beets which are red and white candy striped. They're beautiful and delicious.
If you choose to use a mixture of varieties, which is perfectly fine, be sure to roast them all separately so the red ones don't bleed all over the others and turn everything pink. Also, I peel and slice my beets before roasting. I know it defies convention, but it works for me. That way you get lots of dark caramelized edges which I really enjoy. I make little foil packages of the beets and toss them with salt, pepper, herbs, and olive oil before roasting. That way it prevents the 'red beet bleeding situation' as well as keeps your sheet tray clean. Also, it allows for caramelization but prevents them from getting too dark and crispy while in the oven.
This recipe also calls for Ricotta Salata which is a wonderful sheep's milk cheese. It's dry and crumbly, slightly salty and similar in texture to Feta. Feta could also be substituted here if you can't find Ricotta Salata. Although do look for it, it's fantastic.
Yields about 3 cups/ 4 side servings:
6 medium beets (of any color or mixed colors)
1/2 fennel bulb, fronds and core removed, thinly sliced into 1/2 moons
4 oz Ricotta Salata
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
3 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
sea salt & pepper to taste
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Set out 2 more lengths of foil, equal again to the length of your baking sheet, for your beet parcels.
2) Peel and trim the beets. Remove the greens (save for steaming later), trim off any super skinny root ends, then rinse them well. Slice each beet in half lengthwise then each half into thirds. Toss them onto one of the pre-cut lengths of foil, then place that on the lined sheet tray. Sprinkle the beets generously with the salt & pepper and the thyme. Toss them in 2 TB of the Olive Oil. Spread them out into a single layer. Use the remaining sheet of foil to cover the top and seal up the edges so you've made a little parcel that is tightly sealed, sitting on top of your foil lined sheet pan.
3) Roast the beets for 40-45 minutes until they're easily pierced with a fork. Open up the parcel and allow them to cool about 15 minutes on the sheet tray.
4) Meanwhile, slice the fennel and toss into a serving bowl. Cut the Ricotta Salata into 1" cubes and toss it in with the fennel. When the beets have cooled, toss them in. Season with salt & pepper and finish with the remaining 1 TB Olive Oil.