When I started working in a restaurant after college, I quickly fell in love with the concept of “family meal.” Every day at 3:00 p.m., the chefs would set out a meal for the staff to enjoy together before a long night of dinner service began.
When the clock struck 3:00 p.m. each day I’d go about my napkin folding duties whilst eagerly trying to guess what was on the stove. Leftover wagyu meatloaf? Fried cuttlefish? Sesame noodles? Whatever it was, I’d eat it. I was hungry. And it was unfailingly delicious.
Then, winter produce season arrived and beet bavarois and caviar canape hit the tasting menu. While I’m not at all picky, there are a few ingredients I’ve spent my life avoiding. Beets are at the very top of that list.
The beets didn’t stop there, either. With a plethora of leftover beets from that evenings’ produce order, the earthy, slightly sugared vegetable became a mainstay at family meal, much to my dismay. Pickled beets. Crispy beet chips. Beet soup. And always, always beets in the salad.
But… when you’re in a room full of five-star chefs, it’s embarrassing not to eat the beets. I’m not ashamed to admit that I wanted the chefs to think I had a proper palate.
So, I ate the beets. For weeks, I ate them, slyly taking the less beet-heavy portions of whatever was served, always chewing as fast as possible to avoid any questions. And then, one day, everything changed. The chefs served up an otherwise unassuming beet salad. I braced myself to choke down the beets and hope my sour expression didn’t give me away, but… all of a sudden, I found I actually loved beets.
It was the sweetness of the beets that did it. They were paired with fresh greens, fruit, and creamy chevre. The way the robust flavors of the salad mingled with the subtle sweetness from the beets’ natural sugars flipped a switch in my brain. Once unappetizing, their juicy, deep magenta hue was so appealing to me, I went searching for a matching lipstick.
Instead of avoiding the beets, I found myself digging through the salad bowl, hoping I’d find another hidden under my greens. The mixture of textures — crunchy lettuce, succulent beets, silky chevre — delighted my teeth. And my taste buds were happy, too.
You could call it schadenfreude or a point for anyone who’s ever said, “you’ll learn to love it.” I take it as a lesson in pushing past discomfort. My love of beets grew past that salad.
Instead, any time beets came my way — in my grandparents’ borscht, pickled on a relish tray or baked into a savory galette — I reminded myself to chew a little slower, and give them a chance to wow me all over again.
The magic of family meal is that anything that sounds good from that day’s grocery order is fair game to include, but my personal favorite pairings for this roasted beet salad are goat cheese, romaine, and a bit of fruit (citrus is especially lovely).
Aside from the dressing and the beets, the specific salad ingredients (and their quantities) are completely to your preference — that’s the fun of salad!
- 2 medium beets (yellow, red, or both)
- 3 ounces chevre
- 10 ounces romaine
- 1 cup citrus fruit (melons, peaches, and plums also work well!), thinly sliced or supreme
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons shallots, minced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper
- Heat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Scrub the beets, dry with a paper towel, and wrap in aluminum foil (no need to season). Roast for about an hour (timing will vary depending on beet size!), checking doneness every 20 minutes or so. When a fork slides in easily, they’re ready. Remove from foil and let cool. Set aside.
- While the beets are cooling, assemble the salad ingredients in a bowl and give them a few tosses to combine.
- Whisk together olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, shallots, and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- When the beets are cool, unwrap and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces. Toss in a little olive oil and add salt and pepper, if you’d like.
- Toss everything together and fall in love.
Sophia Vilensky is a Twin Cities-based writer who always has fresh flowers around. You can read more of her work at sophiavilensky.com