This salad came to me in a dream. I actually dreamed about roasted beets in a fresh garden salad, with other ingredients in the same color palette. As dreams go, it wasn’t so bad; as salads go, this is a new favorite.
Roasted golden beets are a little milder in flavor than their red counterparts but have the same texture and earthy notes. In this salad, I soak them in the vinaigrette for a few hours, so they’re essentially quick-pickled. Spooned over the top of your other salad components, they act as both the star of the dish and the dressing. The lettuce you choose should be tender and a little crisp. Our friends at Present Tense Farm grow the most beautiful romaine and red leaf lettuces; I used one of the latter in the salad pictured. To add sweetness, juiciness and more golden color, I use nectarines. Stone fruit is just as welcome in savory dishes as sweet. Putting peaches and nectarines in salads, on burgers, on pizza, etc. is a little bit of an obsession this summer, and I haven’t found one dish yet where they seem out of place. Nectarines don’t need to be peeled; if you choose to substitute a peach, peeling might be a good idea, but is certainly not a strict requirement. For texture, the shallots add a little bit of crispy chew and the walnuts add crunch. If you really want to gild the lily, add some crumbled soft goat cheese to the mix.
Served with grilled chicken, warm focaccia, simple flatbread, or on its own, my golden summer salad will be a welcome addition to the table. I can only hope my dreams this summer will continue to be so fruitful.
Golden Summer Salad with Nectarines and Beets
For the salad:
- 1 lb. golden beets, roasted, peeled and diced
- 1 – 2 ripe nectarines, sliced into wedges
- 1 head of romaine or red leaf lettuce, washed and torn
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 medium shallot, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
- 2 – 3 oz. soft goat cheese (optional)
For the dressing:
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 T. brown sugar
- 2 T. apple cider vinegar
- kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
- ~ 1/2 c. olive oil
To roast the beets: Cut off leaves and stem and any long roots. Do not peel. Try to get the beets similarly sized; if your bunch is two large beets and two small, halve the large beets. Wrap each beet/half in tin foil. Heat the oven to 400 degrees and cook for 60-75 mins. The beets are done when you can pierce them easily with a fork. Cool to room temperature and then store, still in the foil, in the refrigerator until needed. You can roast the beets 2-3 days in advance, and should plan to roast them the day before you make your salad, so they can be chilled overnight.
To make the dressing: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard and brown sugar. Add the cider vinegar, a pinch of kosher salt and a few cracks of fresh black pepper. Whisk to combine. Slowly pour in the 1/2 c. olive oil as you whisk; stop to taste when you’ve added about 3/4 of the oil, and continue adding to taste.
Unwrap your roasted beets and use your fingers and a dull knife to slip off the skins. Dice the cold beets and add to your dressing. Toss to combine, cover loosely, and set aside for 2-4 hours at room temperature. This step can also be done up to a day in advance. Bring the beets and dressing back to room temperature before proceeding.
In a small skillet, heat 1 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced shallots in one layer and cook, untouched, until they are noticeably golden brown. Turn the shallots and continue cooking for a minute or so. Don’t be shy about color here: you don’t want to burn them, but dark shallots are sweet and so crispy! When they’re done, turn out onto a plate lined with paper towel. Add the walnuts to the remaining oil in the skillet and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until fragrant and lightly browned.
To assemble the salad, put torn lettuce onto a large platter. Place the nectarine wedges on the greens, then spoon beets over the top. Dot with shallots and walnuts, and chevre if using. Pour any remaining dressing over the top and serve immediately. This salad is best the day you make it.