One of my very favorite things in the whole world is slowly walking through a farmers market. There is nothing better. I just love the freshly baked goods, the freshly picked fruits and veggies, the little handmade trinkets, the people-watching.
Last week I caught one of the last markets of the season and went all out. I bought 1/2 peck of apples, a jug of fresh apple cider, 2 bunches of beautiful beets, a bunch of dinosaur kale, and 2 odd little winter squashes of some sort. I managed to use a little bit of everything except the squash in this salad.
Just look at these beautiful roasted beets sitting there soaking in the sun light, while a little baby in piggy tails stares longingly at them (Stella loves beets):
The bunches were mixed with deep purple beets and bright orange beets. I think that if you presented me with a plate of roasted beets such as these and a plate of chocolates, I would probably choose the beets. They are like candy to me.
I think they are so amazing because they are so new. My whole life I claimed that I hated beets. I refused to eat them. Until this year. My husband cooked some up and insisted that I try one bite. I’m not usually very picky, but I just assumed that I didn’t like them because I didn’t when I was younger. I reluctantly tried it. And I liked it! I didn’t love it right away, but I did like it. It took a few more exposures before I would crave beets. But now, I am in love. Its my new favorite vegetable! So if you don’t like beets, roast them up and give them a sprinkle of salt and try them one more time. You might just change your mind.
Oh, and did you know the beet leaves are actually really good too? They are actually quite mild and lovely. If you can’t find beets with decent leaves, just sub in some spinach.
A note about kale. Its really popular these days. It can be really icky sometimes. It’s a little tough and a little bitter. I acknowledge that. So if you think the idea of a whole salad full of it sounds horrible, just know that I thought the same thing at first. Then I heard a radio article on NPR about how kale salads are actually quite yummy. Smitten Kitchen, a foodie blog I love, actually was a guest on the show and she talked about her kale salad. As I was unloading my goods at the market, I remembered the article and decided to make my own kale salad and give it a try.
Dinosaur kale, or lacinato kale, is so much more mild and palatable than the normal curly kale you see at most grocery stores. If you can find this kind of kale, I highly recommend it. They way it is embossed kind of looks like dinosaur skin. Baby kale is also a good option. If you can’t find either of these, just make sure you give the kale a good massage, like I describe in step 5.
- 1-2 bunches of beets (I roasted 2 bunches of small beets, but only about 3/4 of that made it onto the salad)
- a sprinkle of salt for the beets
- 1 bunch of dinosaur/lacinato kale (just eyeball it)
- 1 bunch of beet greens (just eyeball it)
- 1/4 C. toasted pecans (almonds, cashews or walnuts would work, too)
- 1/4 C. toasted pine nuts
- 1/4 C. dried cranberries
- 1/8 C. raisins
- 1 small apple, chunked
- cheese of your choice (I recommend something on the sharp side like feta or parmesan shavings. I only had a little bit of feta left, so that’s why the pictures shows mozzarella, too. Feta is better. You could also leave out the cheese to make it vegan.)
- 1/2 C. apple cider
- 1 TBSP. fresh lemon juice
- 1 TBSP. Dijon mustard
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 TBSP. olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Chop off the leaves and stalks of the beets and set aside. Wrap all the beets together in tin foil and set on a pan. Bake for about 30-45 minutes or until you can easily pierce them with a fork. The time may vary depending on how big your beets are. When the beets are done, peel away the skin with your fingers. It should rub right off.
2. On another pan, spread out the pecans and pine nuts. Put them in the oven with beets and let them toast for 5-10 minutes. Take them out when they are browned a little, but not burned. (Normally, I toast nuts at a lower temp, but I like to just throw them in while the beats are roasting. Check them at 5 minutes and make sure you watch them closely after that.)
3. Meanwhile, wash the beet greens and discard any damaged leaves. Chop into bite sized pieces, discarding the long stems. Wash and chop the kale into bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl with the beet greens.
4. Start making the dressing. In a bowl, whisk together the apple cider, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and vinegar. Drizzle in the oil, whisking as you pour. Whisk quickly and constantly until the oil is incorporated into the rest of the dressing.
5. Drizzle about half of the dressing on the greens. With clean hands, massage the dressing into the leaves. This might seem weird, but it really helps the leaves to soften up and lose some of its bitterness. Give it a good 3-5 minute massage, especially if you are using a kind other than dinosaur/lacinato kale.
6. Set the bowl of greens and dressing in the fridge until ready while you are prepping everything else. When the beets are done, slice them into bite sized pieces and give them a quick sprinkle of salt. Chop up the apple. Add the apple chunks, toasted nuts, cheese, and dried fruit to the greens. Toss to combine and add more dressing if you like.
7. Add the beets and very gently toss. If you mix it up too much, the purple color will dye everything else. You could also put the beets in first and sprinkle the other toppings on at the end. If you don’t care about the beet juice dying everything, then just mix it all together in the salad bowl.
8. Let sit in the fridge for an hour so the flavors can blend. If you are too impatient for this, that’s ok, too. It’s still really good, even if you eat it right away. I would know. Set the rest of the dressing on the table so people can drizzle on a little bit more if they like.