Take a moment to pity the beet. It's a sad, unloved vegetable, doomed to a lonely corner in the produce section next to the rutabagas and the brussel sprouts. It gets a bad rap: soggy, mushy, and flavorless, with the added bonus of creating indelible stains on fabric. The beet is also classed amongst foodstuffs that are Good For You, and as any child will tell you, "good for you" is another way of saying "tastes bad."
I like beets. Granted, I also like tripe stew and cold tongue sandwiches, so the average American might take my opinions with a grain of salt. But I imagine I can persuade you of the beet's appeal more easily than I can entice you to try offal.
Boiled, the beet is everything its detractors make it out to be: soggy, waterlogged, and thoroughly unappealing. Roasted, the beet becomes deliciously tender, with a mild, almost buttery sweetness. It's right at home next to roast chicken, and it makes for an excellent burger topping in winter, when tomatoes are mealy and lacking in flavor.*
In the salad below, roasted beets are paired with tangy goat's cheese and toasted walnuts, and served over a tangle of greens in light vinaigrette. It's simple, but visually arresting. You could serve it with roast chicken, but it's a perfectly satisfying light lunch on its own - and heart-healthy, too.
Roasted Beet, Goat Cheese, and Walnut Salad
(Serves one. Best prepared and eaten while wearing old or dark clothing.)
Preheat the oven to 400F. Scrub and peel two medium-sized beets. Cut them both in half; cut each half into quarters. Place the beets in a cake tin and cover with foil. Roast for an hour or so, until the beets are fork-tender. Uncover, and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, toast a handful of walnuts in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat until fragrant. Season with a sprinkling of salt.
Whisk olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a dash of ground mustard together in a big bowl until well-incorporated. Toss with arugula or spring mix, or mâche (lamb's lettuce) if you can find it.
Scatter the beets, walnuts, and a handful of crumbled goat's cheese atop the greens. Grab a fork and dig in.
*Beetroot is a traditional hamburger topping in Australia, as are fried eggs. Unlike Vegemite, which I only grudgingly acknowledge as a foodstuff, I wholeheartedly embrace the "Oz burger" as an icon of Australian cuisine.