Ever since last fall, we’ve been seeing beet salad everywhere. Somehow, the lowly beet (or, la betterave, one of my favourite French words) previously limited to the Eastern European region, namely Ukrainian cuisine in borscht, suddenly found a wider and more cosmopolitan audience. You could get it roasted and tossed with hibiscus and orange blossoms, radicchio, and goat cheese as we did at Oleana in Boston, you could get it and all its varieties in baby form pickled lightly at an upscale tapas bar in Montreal, you could have it served as a structural base for a tagine in one of the few vegetarian restaurants in Paris… just to give a few examples.
Suffice it to say, beets are enjoying a trendy moment in the spotlight. Maybe we could have foreseen it if we were paying attention when all the juice-bars in Toronto (namely Fresh) were serving beet-based drinks to boost iron. I wonder if it has anything to do with more restaurants sourcing locally – beets are one of the longest lasting produce in Ontario and Quebec, peaking in late Fall. They keep well in the crisper or a cellar (if you have one of those, which I don’t), just like potatoes and apples. They are high in fibre, iron, antioxidants, vitamins, and natural sugar. They’re also cheap.
The flavours of this salad blend together really well to make a hearty starter. Sugar in the beets allow them to caramelize in the oven, the balsamic adds a nice kick, the toasted walnuts coated in roasted beet juice and balsamic somehow takes on a special taste, different from raw walnuts. I prefer to eat this warm or room temperature, with some sea salt sprinkled on top. It can be refrigerated in an airtight container overnight for a potluck!