Roasted Beet Salad with Beet Stems, Beet Green-Pistachio Pesto and Ricotta Salata

Contributed by Megan Saynisch, from the Real Food Right Now series.

Texture is always good in a salad, and this one has it in spades: the softness of the roasted beets, the crunch of the pistachio pesto and the creamy-saltiness of the ricotta salata. This salad is also easily adaptable – sub golden or Chioggia beets, or use walnuts in place of the pistachios, or goat cheese or feta in place of the ricotta salata. Extra beet green-pistachio pesto tastes great with potatoes or as a topping for grass-fed steak.

Ingredients:

1 bunch red beets, with greens (about 4 medium beetroots)
13cup unsalted pistachios, shelled and roasted
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
Kosher salt
1 ounce ricotta salata, crumbled
14 extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Fresh lemon juice, for drizzling

Special equipment: Food processor or mini-food chopper

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. With a sharp knife, cut the beetroots from the beet stems and leaves. Set stems and leaves aside.
  3. Wrap beetroots tightly in foil, two beets to a packet, and place in preheated oven. Roast beets until tender when pierced with a pairing knife, about 1 12 to 2 hours. (See note.)
  4. Meanwhile, make beet stems and beet green-pistachio pesto: Remove the beet stems from the beet leaves (it’s okay if some stem remains in the leaves). Reserve any tiny beet leaves (2 inches or less) for garnish.
  5. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the beet stems and boil, 7-8 minutes, until tender. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and set aside. (Keep water boiling.)
  6. Add the beet leaves to the boiling water and cook until just tender, 3-4 minutes. Remove from water and drain well.
  7. Add the pistachios, chopped garlic, a generous pinch of salt, the extra virgin olive oil and the cooked and drained beet greens to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a rough, chunky sauce forms. Taste and correct for salt, if necessary. Set aside.
  8. Remove beets from oven and peel (see Pro Tip, above). Cut each beet in half, then into half-moons about 18-inch thick. Chop cooked and drained beet stems into 14-inch chunks.
  9. Spread beet slices on a small platter. Top with dollops of the beet green-pistachio pesto (you will probably have extra pesto left over). Scatter beet stems over. Top with ricotta salata and any reserved tiny beet leaves. Drizzle with additional extra virgin olive oil (if desired) and a few drops of lemon juice.

Note: the length of time beets take to roast in the oven is fairly variable, depending on the size of the beets. Start checking after about an hour and a half for medium beets, less for smaller beets.