pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette

I love beets. There’s just something about that sweet and earthy flavor, al dente firm yet tender bite, and intense color that I just can’t get enough of.

Growing up beets were never on the menu, and I’m not sure that I knew what a beet even was until I went off to college. My grandparents were always big gardeners, so you might think that beets would have been part of my childhood experience, but for whatever reason, they weren’t.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

I don’t really remember the first time I ever ate one, or whether or not I liked it at the time, but eventually I realized that they’re amazing. Oddly enough, part of that beet love may have had something to do with my favorite author. I was in college the first time I heard of Tom Robbins. I was sitting at the bar after a long night waiting tables, sipping on my shift drink and shooting the shit with one of my coworkers about whatever I was reading at the time. Someone a few seats down at the bar overheard us and chimed in, “Have you ever read any Tom Robbins?” I hadn’t, but at the time I wasn’t convinced and didn’t take any steps to change that.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

A month or so later I noticed a Tom Robbins book on a shelf in a friends apartment, and curiosity finally got the better of me. I asked if I could borrow it, and was instantly hooked. At this point I’ve read almost everything he’s ever written. A few titles I’ve read over and over to the point that my paperback copies are covered in masking tape and would probably disintegrate if I tried to give them another go. The first title I read still remains my favorite, and Jitterbug Perfume is definitely the one title I’ve read more than any other.

It’s also the title that I’ve recommended most, and every time anyone has actually taken my advice and read it, they’ve come back to tell me that they LOVED it with a capital LOVE!

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

I won’t spoil it for you, because I urge you to give it a read yourself if you haven’t already, but I will say that the subject matter is a bit more “fantastic” than I usually go for. I’m not someone who normally enjoys reading fantasy, but Tom Robbins’ fantasy is somehow more about the fantastic and less about the unbelievable or childish. He writes so intelligently and poetically and passionately that I’m completely sucked into Jitterbug Perfume‘s tales of time travel and immortality and individuality and old pagan religions and magic and sex and… perfume.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

One craggy old root vegetable (the beet) plays an oddly important role in the story. After reading the book for the second (or may it was the third) time, I briefly contemplated getting a beetroot tattoo. I’m sure my mother will back my story up, as she was equally confused and horrified by the idea.

Robbins waxes so poetic about the humble beet that I was immediately, deeply, passionately in love with them. Even if I’d hated them (I didn’t) I’d still have been in love with the idea of the beet. It’s funny. He doesn’t really point out any profound detail about their history, or their nutritional value, it’s just that he uses beautifully vivid language to romanticize them and use them for a metaphor for something bigger. Nothing changed about the reality of beets, but the way I picture them was forever altered.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.
The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip…
The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.
The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.” ― Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Perhaps one of my favorite ways to prepare (and preserve) beets, is to pickle them. There’s something about adding vinegary acidity to their earthy sweetness that just elevates them.
You can pickle your own easily enough, but pickled beets are increasingly easy to find at the grocery store these days too. My own stash from this summer has already run dry, so for this recipe I bought some locally produced beets pickled with fennel.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy pickled beets is to pair them with other sweet, earthy, robust flavors in a bright filling salad. If you want to make this salad feel even more substantial, just top it with some thinly sliced grilled steak or seared chicken breast.

There’s nothing about this salad that isn’t amazing. Peppery fresh arugula, acidic sweet and earthy pickled beets, creamy earthy crumbled goat cheese, bright juicy pomegranate seeds, crunchy buttery cashews, and pungent yet delicate sliced shallot; all tied together with a quick and easy homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It doesn’t get any better than this y’all.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Pickled Beet and Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 2 dinner salads, or 4 side salads
  • Print
5 oz (about 4 or 5 cups) arugula
3/4 cup pickled beets (cut into bite-size pieces if not already packed that way)
Seeds of 1/2 a fresh pomegranate (about 1/2 cup) *see note
1 cup toasted cashews
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
2.5 oz crumbled goat cheese (about 1/3 cup)

Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a dressing shaker or small bowl and shake or whisk vigorously until well combined. Set aside.

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss with about half the dressing. Try not to completely mix in the goat cheese or it’ll kind of just disappear. If you’re happy with the amount of dressing, you’re done. Otherwise, add a bit more until you’re satisfied, and gently toss again. Divide between serving bowls or plates and enjoy.

Any extra salad dressing should last several weeks tightly covered in the refrigerator.

*cook’s note:
My favorite way to get the seeds out of a pomegranate is to cut one in half, firmly grasp one half cut side down over a large bowl in one hand, while firmly whacking the skin side of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon held in the other hand. It may take a few good whacks to loosen the seeds, but they’ll eventually start falling out with each coming whack. You’ll need to rotate the pomegranate as you go so all sides get their fair share of abuse, and once all the seeds are removed you’ll want to pick through them to remove any stray yellow membrane that fell out with the seeds.

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24 comments

  1. What are your thoughts on canned beets? I love both canned and pickled beets, but truth be told, I have never attempted anything with a fresh beet. I am getting mighty curious and may have to give it a go some day soon! I would love to see a recipe for pickling your own beets :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never really buy canned beets, but i’ve had them in a lot of lunch salads (a lot of places near where I work offer canned beets on their build-your-own-salad bars) They’re still good in my book, but don’t taste as fresh as homemade.
      When I make beets at home I usually cut the tops and bottoms off but don’t peel them and roast them in the over covered in aluminum foil with a little olive oil and sea salt.
      I definitely plan to post a recipe for pickling them next summer/fall! Writing this post made me really sad that I didn’t do it last year!

      Like

  2. That is such a great quote about beets (or as we say downunder, beetroot). I know the feeling well of falling in love with the taste and mystery of an unknown food simply by reading about it – I was introduced to olives this way, although I can’t for the life of me remember the author who wrote so lyrically about them!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I dropped by to say (a very belated) hello but this recipe caught my eye before I could- Everything about it says: “Make me and eat me now!”. The leaves, the goats cheese, the cashews, the pomegranete and that gorgeous looking pickled beetroot- The whole dish is just like a dream list of ingredients. This is definitely going on my ‘to make’ list.

    Eats x

    PS: Hello by the way- I was delighted to find your blog. I love minature schnauzers and I recently recieved a bundt tin for my birthday so I predict many future visits!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. These are all my favourite ingredients. i tend to put some kind of sprinkled cheese in many of my salads. Lately I have used feta which gives a slightly salty flavour with the other sweeter ingredients. Arugula has that fabulous peppery flavour that gives such a bite. I love this salad!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks so much for sharing Tom Robbins on beets! I particularly love the line ‘the beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot’. Because it comes after the murderer line I’ve now got this image in my head of a bunch of little cherries cheerfully slaughtering carrots until they end up the colour of beets! Sorry, weird imagination I know :)

    Liked by 1 person

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