I’m so glad you all enjoyed my Creamy Stovetop Mac & Cheese as much as I did! I received so many great comments and feedback from so many different people. Thank you! Since starting this blog about a month and a half ago (really, has it only been that long?!), it’s been fun seeing trends and what people like most. What I think is going to be a hit isn’t always the case, but then others that I don’t give much thought to turn out to be some of the most liked recipes thus far (don’t worry, my mac and cheese was not one of those; I knew it was a good on the second I made it!).
Well, I’m switching it up on you guys! So long cheese-laden-noodles (for now). Today I’m bringing you Roasted Beet and Farro Salad! Say what, right?! Ok, don’t click out of this just yet; hear me out. As an RD in the Midwest, I love my comfort food in moderation (aka macaroni and cheese), but then I balance it out with more nutritious meals most of the time. I find it my duty to bring you a variety and to introduce you to some things you wouldn’t normally try. There’s no time like a Monday to go all out and bring to most of you two new things—beets and farro.
Let’s start with the beets. Beets are so nutritious. Just look at that rich color—anything that dark in color has got to have a heavy dose of nutrition in it.
One of the nutritional characteristics of beets is that it’s a vasodilator (read: beets help lower your blood pressure by opening up your blood vessels). You may have heard about athletes drinking beet juice as a natural way of boosting their energy and increasing their endurance. Or maybe you haven’t; but it’s true, they do. :) Beets contain nitrates (the good kind, not the kind found in processed hot dogs!) that our bodies change to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide and a chain of events are responsible for dilating our blood. This allows oxygen to reach the working muscles more efficiently, which then increases the muscles stamina during prolonged activity.
Well, anyway, I don’t think this salad will make your workouts any easier (I didn’t seem to notice a difference in my running workouts, unfortunately), but nonetheless, beets are still great to add to your salads for their nutrition and, of course, their taste! Beets have a slightly earthy taste to it (it is a root, after all), but roasting the beets caramelizes the natural sugars and gives them a sweeter taste.
Don’t be scared of their intimidating appearance; they could not be any simpler to roast! Just be careful…the color dyes everything it touches. To start, chop off the greens, leaving you just the root. Don’t throw away the greens, though; it can be used like swiss chard. Scrub the beets with water to get off any dirt.
Next, cover the beets in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and pop in the oven for about an hour (depending on the size of your beets; mine were pretty large so an hour was what I needed) until you can pierce through them easily with a knife.
Once the beets have cooled enough to touch, take off the aluminum foil. With a paper towel, peel off the skin, which will peel right off now that they’re cooked. So easy, right?! Chopping up the beets now after they’re cooked is a lot easier than doing it prior to roasting. Plus, the clean-up is a breeze. Store the chopped beets in the fridge for when you need them. I didn’t add any pepper or salt to them, but feel free if you think they need it. I’m a beet purist. :)
Alrighty, on to the farro! Just when you think you’ve gotten the hang of quinoa, we’re pulling out another ancient grain for you to try. Farro (pronounced like far-o) is a whole grain that is similar to rice except a little nuttier tasting and is chewier and denser than rice.
I had never had it until I made this salad and now I can’t get enough! Seriously, I want to use it all the time now. It’s a great addition to any salad to give it some extra texture and protein. While at the grocery store, another customer who was looking for it, said she had had it on a salad at a restaurant in California and loved it so much she had to recreate it. I’m always wanting to try new things and since we all know California is where all new food fads get started, I needed to check this grain out pronto!
Farro is quick to cook up, too. In about 15 minutes of the farro simmering in water, it’s ready to be eaten. And that’s where this salad comes together. With the beets already roasted, the salad is ready in no time. I love that each ingredient can individually be detected, but at the same time, each compliment the others so well that it creates a well-rounded salad.
Chopped spinach and lightly sweetened vinaigrette is mixed in with the farro. To this, add chopped pear, green onions, fresh basil leaves, the roasted beets, and some crumbled goat cheese. The fresh basil surprisingly were the thing that put it over the top for me. I’m telling ya; don’t leave this ingredient out! Also, if you’re leery about goat cheese, feel free to use feta. However, if you haven’t tried it yet, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. It has a tang to it that really compliments the sweetness of the rest of the salad. It sort of melts into the rest of the salad and is just perfection…I can’t explain it any better than that. Plus, taking a nutritional look at it, goat cheese is lower in fat than cow cheese.
And there you have it! Who knew you could learn so much on a Monday! I know this recipe isn’t your typical Midwestern fare, but who knows, maybe you’ll learn to love it just as much as I did. :)
Roasted Beet and Farro Salad
Yields 2-3 salads
- 2-3 beets
- 1/2 cup farro, uncooked
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 cups chopped spinach
- 1 pear, chopped
- 1/4 cup diced green onions
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, torn into small pieces
- 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (or desired amount)
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp honey
- To roast the beets: Trim the tops to within an inch of the stems. Scrub the beets, but do not peel. Wrap each beet in foil and seal tightly. Arrange the beets on a cookie sheet, leaving plenty of room around each beet. Roast in a 400° oven for about an hour, or until the beets can easily be pierced with a knife. Times will vary, depending on the size of the beets. For similar cooking times, cut the larger beets to the same size as the smaller beets and wrap each segment individually in foil. Remove the beets from the oven. Unwrap the beets when they’re cool enough to handle. Peel the cooled beets with a paper towel; the skins should slide right off. Chop the roasted beets into bite sized pieces.
- Pour the water into a small saucepan. After rinsing the farro with water, add the farro to the water. Heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for about 15 minutes, or until farro is chewy with little resistance (my farro seemed to want to bubble over a lot; I would recommend keeping an eye on it to avoid this). Once cooked through, drain farro and rinse with cold water to cool.
- While the farro is cooking, prepare the the vinaigrette. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.
- To a large bowl, add a tablespoon of the vinaigrette, the chopped spinach, and the farro. Mix together. Add additional vinaigrette, if needed. There may be extra vinaigrette, depending on the amount used.
- Add in the remaining ingredients. To make this a single-serving salad, add the ingredients to your desired amount. Save the remaining ingredients for a salad the next night!