When it comes to beets, people either love them or hate them. I’ve been in both camps. I didn’t develop a taste for beets until I was an adult–specifically, until I had been an adult for a couple decades…. But now, I love the combination of beets and goat cheese.
I’ve eaten many delicious salads featuring those two ingredients, and wanted to see if I could come up with a version at home that was quick and easy to make. The solution, I discovered, is to have some already-cooked beets on hand. If you don’t happen to have any left over from a previous meal, you should be able to find steamed beets in your local grocery store (roughly 8 oz./4 beets per vacuum pack)–they are perfect when you need cooked beets, fast. I also wanted a quick way to glaze walnuts so that they ended up dry and crispy, not sticky or overly sweet. The key to achieving this is a trusty cast-iron skillet or other heavy-bottomed pan (see directions below).
This recipe makes two servings, but it is very free-form; it can be adapted to as many people and tastes as needed–just adjust the amount of each ingredient as needed. Note: To save time, make the balsamic glaze and toast the walnuts simultaneously; once those are underway, slice the beets and cut the goat cheese.
Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Maple Walnuts and Balsamic Glaze
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. walnut pieces
1-2 tsp. pure maple syrup
4 c. “spring mix” salad greens
2 small steamed beets, cut in half horizontally, then thinly sliced
2 oz. goat cheese, cut into small pieces
1. Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat and let the vinegar simmer until it is reduced by half (to 1/4 c.) and has become syrupy. The best way to tell how much it has reduced is to pour the vinegar back into a heat-proof measuring cup to check. This whole process should take about 15 minutes. Pour the balsamic glaze into a bowl and let cool completely. When cool, add the olive oil, grind some black pepper over the surface to taste, and whisk to emulsify; you will need to re-whisk before serving.
2. Heat a small cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the walnut pieces to the dry skillet, and toast until fragrant. Drizzle maple syrup over the walnuts, mixing well to coat all the walnuts evenly, and keep cooking (stirring constantly) just until the walnuts begin to turn golden brown. Immediately spread the walnuts onto a plate to cool; they will end up dry and crispy after a few minutes.
3. Put about 2 c. salad greens on each of two plates. Top each with half the sliced beets, half the pieces of goat cheese, and half the walnuts. Drizzle with a bit of balsamic glaze, then serve extra glaze on the side.