I have a love affair with all food towered, stacked and layered, the taller the better. There is something artistic and beautiful about the stark color contrast of the layers, each with it’s distinct flavor and character. I know, I know, food is to be eaten and not just looked at. I also know that my creation will be destroyed the second it’s put on the table. I’m okay with that. I actually like the deconstruction process almost as much as the creative. A certain amount of satisfaction can be derived from wrecking cool things, perhaps harkening back to our childhood days when we spent time building elaborate sand castles and then stomping them into oblivion.
This colorful salad was inspired by my cousin (by marriage), Joey, who is a fantastic and creative cook. At a recent event, we were swapping kitchen stories, as people who like to cook are wont to do, and he passed along this clever method for layering beets and goat cheese. Any soft cheese, even cream cheese, will work if you don’t like or have goat cheese. I like to roast beets, rather than boiling or steaming them, as roasting intensifies the color and the flavor. After roasting you have gloriously colored beets which can be sliced up and served in salads or simply drizzled with oil and vinegar and eaten alone. Layering the beets with soft cheese elevates two simple ingredients into a beautiful and delicious work of art. If you don’t have the time, or the inclination though, just combine all ingredients and toss with vinaigrette. I love the salty, sweet crunch that the glazed pecans add to the salad. For this dish I cooked them to almost burning to add a slightly smokey flavor that complements the goat cheese. When combined with the light citrus dressing, the flavors are divine! The beet slices would make good appetizers on their own, if made with small beets, as would the glazed pecans.
Layered Beet Salad
1/4 cup olive oil
8 oz goat cheese or cream cheese (plain or herbed) 3 cups mixed greens
glazed pecans (recipe below)
citrus vinaigrette (recipe below) Herbs for Goat Cheese(optional)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Rinse beets and pat dry. Do not remove tops or stems (you don’t want to lose any juice). To roast, you can either wrap them in aluminum foil or place in a covered glass dish. Drizzle with olive oil and cook at 425 degrees for about an hour (or until you can easily pierce with a fork). Larger beets may take longer. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- When the beets are completely cool, peel the skin with a paper towel and remove the top and tail with a knife.
- Goat cheese should be at room temperature for best results. If you would like you can add parsley, chives, thyme and black pepper to the goat cheese and mix to combine.
- To assemble the beet towers, slice beets crosswise into 1/4 inch rounds, keeping them in order.
- Place the bottom round on a platter and spread with spoonful of goat cheese. Cover with a beet round and repeat until the beet has been reassembled.
- Wrap the beets tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour or overnight.
- Remove beet towers from the refrigerator and carefully unwrap. Slice each tower vertically to get lovely striped slices. Wipe knife between each slice and use a spatula to transfer them to plates.
- Toss greens in vinaigrette and divide greens evenly onto four plates.
- Arrange a couple of slices of beet on each plate.
- Top with pecans if desired.
1 Tbsn butter or coconut oil
1/8 teaspoon salt 2 Tbsn water
1 1/2 cup pecan halves (or walnut)
- Combine sugar, butter, water and salt in a large skillet and stir over medium heat until butter is melted.
- Add pecans and cook, stirring constantly,making sure pecans are evenly coated, for 5-7 minutes.
- Spread pecans in single layer on parchment paper and cool completely.
VARIATIONS: To make pecans for snacking add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper for a spicy kick. For a sweeter, dessert topping add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla or dash of cinnamon. You can even substitute the white sugar for brown sugar for more of a carmely ‘turtle’ type result (great over ice cream!).