cashews

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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warm farro salad with roasted sweet potatoes & brussels sprouts

I know. It’s been a while since I posted last. I’m really sorry folks.
I had a pretty nasty cold last week and then I went upstate to visit family for a few days.
warm farro salad with roasted sweet potatoes & brussels sprouts | Brooklyn Homemaker

My mother is in the midst of renovating an old house, so I was pretty busy when I was home and didn’t bring my computer with me to distract me from the task at hand. The house needed to be completely gutted and redone because there were plumbing issues, a leaky roof, cracked plaster, and non-existent insulation. She opted for a beautiful metal roof, which is almost finished, but the interior of the home is still stripped down to the studs. Luckily the original moldings and hardwood floors are still in place, but there’s little else intact. I’m not entirely sure how (or if) I’ll do it, but I might end up sharing the progress with you, because I’m a crazy person and I love home renovations and big old houses. While I was home we were driving all over the world choosing flooring and finishes for the upstairs bathroom. I’m sure you’re fascinated. I hope you’re fascinated.

warm farro salad with roasted sweet potatoes & brussels sprouts | Brooklyn Homemaker

Anyways, like I said, I had a cold just before I left. I’m a total whiney little baby when I’m sick, and I also tend to get ravenously hungry. I made this salad when I was feeling well enough to spend some time in the kitchen, because I was looking for something healthy and filling, and packed with flavor since I couldn’t taste much. It really didn’t disappoint.

warm farro salad with roasted sweet potatoes & brussels sprouts | Brooklyn Homemaker

Russell has been completely obsessed with farro lately, and it’s starting to rub off on me. If you’re not familiar with farro, it’s a whole grain that’s often used in salads, soups, sides, and breakfasts dishes, or cooked like risotto. Most people think of and refer to farro as one variety of grain, but there are actually three different types composed of the grains of three ancient species of wheat. The most common found in the US, and the one you might already be familiar with, comes from Emmer wheat. It’s earthy, nutty, chewy and really satisfying. It’s also packed with fiber, vitamin B3, and zinc. Zinc is my favorite things to overload on to help cure a cold, so that was a great bonus!

If you’ve not had a chance to try farro yet, I’d really recommend it. Not only is it good for you, it’s also great tasting and versatile. It maintains its chewy texture better than rice or pasta in liquid, so it’s especially ideal for soups and dishes with a bit of moisture. I used semi-pearled farro which is probably the easiest kind to find. It has some (but not all) of its bran removed so it cooks up in about 30 minutes and doesn’t require overnight soaking like the whole-grain variety. It is not gluten-free, but it does have a significantly lower gluten content than most modern varieties of wheat.

warm farro salad with roasted sweet potatoes & brussels sprouts | Brooklyn Homemaker

This salad was just what the doctor ordered. It’s filling and savory with just a hint sweetness and tang. It also has a wonderful mix of textures and flavors. The chewy farro, crunchy cashews, creamy goat cheese, and tender brussels sprouts with a bit of bite inside made for such an interesting and satisfying combination. The sweet and tangy dressing, sweet tart cherries, nutty farro, and toasty roasted brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes all pair really well together and made every bite super flavorful and delicious.

warm farro salad with roasted sweet potatoes & brussels sprouts | Brooklyn Homemaker

I would say that this salad is best when its first tossed together and still warm, but it was pretty tasty served cold with lunch the next day too. It somehow tasted sweeter cold so if you’d prefer to serve it chilled you might want to cut back on the cherries or tone down the honey in the dressing. Also, if you plan to make this ahead, I’d suggest that you wait to add the cashews until just before serving, as they can absorb moisture and oils from the dressing and lose their crunch.
When you’re mixing in the goat cheese, be careful not to squish it. It’s so soft and creamy and so mildly flavored that it could get lost in the salad if it’s completely incorporated. I think it’s best if there are some separate gobs of it interspersed throughout the salad.

warm farro salad with roasted sweet potatoes & brussels sprouts | Brooklyn Homemaker

Warm Farro Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Brussels Sprouts

2 cups semi-pearled farro
3 cups small brussels sprouts, washed and halved
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes (about 3 cups of cubes)
1 red onion, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
salt and pepper for seasoning
1 cup cashews, roughly chopped
1/3 dried cherries, roughly chopped
2-3 oz goat cheese

dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Combine farro, 6 cups of water, and 1 tsp of salt in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, place sweet potato cubes into a heat proof bowl, and cover with enough boiling water to cover completely. Let soak for 10 minutes. Carefully drain and pat dry with a kitchen towel or paper towels. Toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly over a parchment lined sheet pan. Set aside.
In the same bowl, toss halved brussels sprouts and onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly over another parchment lined sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes along with the sweet potatoes.
Add roasted sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, & onions, as well as the chopped cherries and cashews to the bowl with the farro while everything is still warm.
In a large measuring cup combine all ingredients for the dressing and whisk until well combined. Pour over salad and mix until incorporated. Crumble goat cheese over the salad and lightly toss to combine.