I mentioned in my post for Gnocchi with Beet Greens & Bacon that I would suggest how to use the beets you almost always have if you have beet greens around. Here is my number one recommendation. This side dish features my recent favorite combination of flavors: tender roasted beets with salty preserved lemon. I could eat this everyday. Recently, I have been adding diced apple for some texture and sweetness; sometimes I also add feta or bleu cheese, sometimes toasted pecans or walnuts. If you had a robust herb garden over the summer, it’s possible that you have some herb-flavored oil or vinegar in the cupboard; this is the right time to break open that bottle if you have one, especially if the herb providing flavor is thyme or tarragon. I used white wine vinegar flavored with thyme the last two times I made this dish. Take advantage of the abundant beets and apples available this time of year and make this terrific autumnal salad; it is beautiful to look at, simple, healthful and quite tasty.
Roasted Beets with Preserved Lemon & Apple
- 1 bunch beets (about 6 medium), cleaned, greens reserved for another meal
- 1 crisp apple, such as Honeycrisp, Pink Lady or McIntosh, seeded and diced*
- 1 T. preserved lemon**, minced
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 T. white wine vinegar
- lots of black pepper, preferably coarsely and freshly ground
- 1 oz. feta or bleu cheese, crumbled (optional)
- 3 T. toasted pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
- salt to taste
To cook the beets, scrub them well and wrap individually in tin foil. Roast for 35-50 mins. (depending on size) in a 400 degree oven. The beets are done when they can be pierced with a fork without resistance. Allow them to cool enough to be handled and then unwrap and peel the skins off. If they are cooked through, the skins should come off easily. Cut the peeled beets into bite-sized cubes, or quarter and slice them.
Place the cut beets, diced apple and preserved lemon into a bowl; add the oil, vinegar and pepper and toss gently to combine. Fold in the cheese and nuts, if using. Taste and add salt, if necessary; the preserved lemons are often salty enough on their own. Serve immediately. Leftovers will keep in the fridge, tightly covered, for two to three days. You can cook the beets up to two days in advance, but it’s wise to assemble the dish just before serving.
*Use an apple variety you enjoy eating plain, one that is crisp but not overly sour. I would not recommend Granny Smiths, as they seem to clash with the flavor of the preserved lemon.
**You should make your own, because they are wonderful to have on hand, but if you don’t have time or supplies, preserved lemons are increasingly common in the deli area (often on or near the olive or antipasto bar) of many well-stocked grocery stores.