I love beets, but sometimes I find them tedious to cook. I prefer to roast them in the oven – I like the flavor better than boiled. That means turning my oven on to 400 degrees for the better part of an hour during the summer months, which is something I am loathe to do unless there’s something else that needs cooking in the same way at the same time. So sadly, beets are usually an afterthought – not the status to which they should be relegated.
Earlier this week, we were roasting some crispy potatoes (a recipe I should share sometime, though not one of our healthier offerings) and I thankfully remembered to scrub my little Chioggias and chuck them into some foil to roast alongside the potatoes. This is the advantage of beets – toss them in and forget them. A little too long in the oven and they don’t really suffer, which is a trait I appreciate.
Anyway, what to do with them the next day? I wanted to eat something vegetarian anyway, so I cooked up some Puy lentils, tossed them with a vinaigrette, sliced up the beets, grabbed a handful of arugula and a little cheese and voila – dinner!
I am hardly the first to make this salad – this is just my riff on it. It’s perfect ‘home alone’ food, as it’s exactly right for one hungry person (especially in a household where only one of us likes beets), or can be easily doubled. It can also be tailored to your tastes. Don’t like lentils? Try barley. Don’t like arugula? Use spinach. Hate goat’s cheese? Try feta. Or a grilled Halloumi would be delicious, too. However you do it, it will be simple and nourishing (and your beets won’t rot in the back of the produce drawer).
1 c Puy lentils
2 c water or stock
3 medium sized beets, roasted* (any variety)
2 oz plain goat’s cheese
2 large handfuls baby greens
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs thyme
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
Handful fresh herbs, such as dill or tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
Place water into a medium pot and bring to the boil. Carefully sort through lentils to ensure there are no small stones or chaff. Rinse them thoroughly, then place in the boiling water along with the bay and thyme. Reduce heat and cover, cooking at a simmer for approximately 30 minutes (test for doneness – there should be some texture left).
Drain lentils and return to pot. Add olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste (I like rather a lot of both. Alternatively, you can blend the oil, vinegar, seasonings and fresh herbs in a food processor and toss over the whole salad when it is assembled). Add the beets and gently stir.
Place greens on two plates. Top with lentil and beet mixture, then crumble cheese over. This is nice all by itself, but wouldn’t suffer from the addition of a piece of grilled, garlicky bread on the side.
*To roast beets, scrub and tail them, then place in a square of aluminum foil. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 60-75 minutes (preferably along with something else so you’re getting more bang for your energy buck!). To remove the skins, just rub with a paper towel – they’ll come right off.