Meatless Mondays: Salt-Roasted Beet Salad

This technique may be used most frequently with meat, but it's an ideal way to cook winter's root vegetables.

Salt-Roasted Beet Salad

(Photo: Ian Knauer)

Ian Knauer worked for ‘Gourmet’ and is the author of the IACP Award–nominated cookbook ‘The Farm.’

Why meatless on Mondays? Not only is eating less animal protein a healthy diet choice, but curbing your meat consumption can have a significant environmental impact too. In 2006 the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that animal agriculture accounted for a full 19 percent of greenhouse gases—more than the transportation sector. Best of all, with recipes like these, going meatless can be a delicious weekly habit.

Salt roasting is a cooking technique that yields excellent results with vegetables. Although it has traditionally been used for meats (think Mediterranean-style fish or Asian salt-buried chicken), veggies take to the approach just as well as and in many cases even better than meats (which can over-steam in the case of fish or, for beef, get too salty).

I conducted an experiment in which I roasted beets wrapped in foil, seasoned with a pinch of salt, and tasted them side by side with beets that I had packed in a mixture of kosher salt and egg whites. The difference was astonishing. It is true that the salt-roasted beets were saltier, but they were not too salty, and they were far more flavorful.

This technique works for all sorts of vegetables, particularly root vegetables, making it perfect for this time of year, when that is all that comes in my local CSA share. Try it with sweet potatoes, celery root, turnips, rutabaga, and of course, beets. You too will be astonished at the boost in flavor.

Salt-Roasted Beet Salad

Serves 4 to 6

5 cups kosher salt

7 large egg whites, lightly beaten

3 lbs. medium beets, trimmed but not peeled

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted

4 cups baby salad greens

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Stir the egg whites into the salt until they resemble wet sand. Place a 1/2-inch even layer of salt mixture on a baking sheet; then place the beets on the salt. Cover the beets with the remaining salt mixture, packing the salt over the beets in a mound. Bake the beets until they are very tender when pierced with a sharp knife, about 1 hour. Let them rest at room temperature until warm, about 45 minutes. Break away the salt, and slip the skins from the beets. Cut the beets into 1/2-inch pieces.

Whisk together the vinegar and oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the dressing with the beets, walnuts, and salad greens, and then serve.

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