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)

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.

steak topped carrot and mango salad with chili lime dressing

Okay so the holidays are fast approaching and we are all surrounded by sweets and cookies and cakes and rich hearty indulgences.

steak topped carrot and mango salad with chili lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

With all the temptations at your fingertips this time of year, it’s easy to go overboard, and as much as I love to indulge, after a while your body just craves something fresh and bright and healthy. Of course, it’s also important to maintain a balance in your diet, to keep your ticker ticking and all. The thing about writing a food blog though, is that you tend to want to write about beautiful foods that make your mouth water just looking at them. While a lot of healthy foods certainly can taste great, “health food” ain’t sexy.

steak topped carrot and mango salad with chili lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

We tend to eat a lot of salads at home, though from what I post here you might not know it. Most of our dinner salads are a kitchen sink of whatever produce we can find in the fridge, and while they’re usually delicious, they’re not all that photogenic or imaginative. For that reason, they don’t often make it to the pages of Brooklyn Homemaker.

steak topped carrot and mango salad with chili lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

This salad though, is different. This salad isn’t just sexy, it’s seductive.

steak topped carrot and mango salad with chili lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

To get those super long, super thin, super sexy julienned strips of carrot and mango, I used a julienne peeler. In a pinch you could also use a standard box grater, but the results won’t be nearly as long or thin, and if your mango isn’t super firm I fear that it might just turn to mush. I think that getting those perfect thin strands of vegetables makes salads look so much more delicious and interesting and makes you want to just dive right in. These peelers are also really really easy to use, so if you’re looking for a fun and affordable new tool for your kitchen, or a great stocking stuffer for the cook in your life, I’d highly recommend picking one up!

steak topped carrot and mango salad with chili lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

To finish the salad and make it feel even more substantial and filling, I added some seared London broil, sliced ultra thin. If you’re not a steak fan though you can use whatever protein you like. I think the steak works really well with the dressing, but sliced chicken breast would be great here too. You could even go for some fresh juicy shrimp, seared salmon fillets, or even some decadent confit duck leg. Or, for that matter, skip the protein altogether. There is such a wide variety of flavors and textures going on that this salad is pretty amazing all on it’s own.

steak topped carrot and mango salad with chili lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

While it certainly is good for you, the last word that comes to mind when you eat this salad is healthy. It’s bursting with so much flavor and offers such a variety of textures that you won’t be thinking about anything else. The carrots and mango are crunchy and fresh, and every bite is permeated with the sweet, bright, and spicy dressing. The crunchy cashews taste almost buttery against the sweet acidity of the rest of the salad, the cilantro is fresh and green and summery, and the sliced steak stands in soft and tender contrast to all that crispness and crunch.

steak topped carrot and mango salad with chili lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Steak Topped Carrot and Mango Salad with Chili Lime Dressing

zest and juice of 2 limes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a dressing bottle or measuring cup and whisk or shake vigorously.

6 medium carrots, julienned or grated (about 4 cups)
1 firm (or slightly under-ripe) mango, peeled and julienned or grated (about 2 1/2 to 3 cups)
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 cup torn cilantro leaves
1 cup unsalted roasted cashews
12 to 16 oz London Broil (or other lean boneless steak), optional
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

Julienne carrots using a julienne peeler (I LOVE this one), or grate them with a box grater. Peel the mango and julienne it, stopping where you feel the pit beneath the flesh. You can also slice the mango off the pit and grate it with a box grater. Combine the carrots, mango, sliced shallot, and chili lime dressing in a large bowl and toss well to combine.

At this point you could finish the salad and eat it as is, but I think it really benefits from at least an hour’s rest covered in the refrigerator.
So, if you have time, cover and refrigerate from 1 to 24 hours to let the flavors mingle. Just before serving, add the cashews and cilantro and toss until well combined.

Generously season the steak on both sides with salt and pepper. Preheat a large heavy bottom skillet (not non-stick) over high heat. Once the pan is good and super hot, add butter or oil, and sear the steak for 3-6 minutes on either side, flipping only once. This will depend on the thickness of the steak, but 3 minutes per side should get you to about medium rare, and 6 should get you closer to medium well. Remove steak to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing against the grain of the meat, into super thin slices with a very sharp knife.

While steak is resting, toss the salad again to redistribute the dressing. Plate the salad and top with slices of steak.

Mixed Green Salad with Seared Chicken & Orange Vinaigrette

After the red velvet cake post last week I thought I should attempt to share something healthy-ish. You know, something that doesn’t call for 2 cups of oil and multiple sticks of butter. If you based any ideas of what my diet might look like on my blog posts, you’d probably think 75% of what I ate was cake. Well. I really like cake. What can I say? No, really though, I promise I eat real food sometimes too.

mixed green salad with pears, snap peas, seared chicken & orange vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

If I’ve had a busy day at work, or have very little time to get dinner together, I think a nice big salad with a bunch of stuff it is a really good way to go. You can buy pre-washed greens, and even bottled dressing if you like. Then just cook off some protein, usually steak or chicken in my house, while you prepare all your veggies. Now, I’m really not into the idea of eating a salad, or any meal for that matter, just because it’s healthy. I could definitely stand to lose a few pounds, but I think as long as I eat fresh homemade food, and balance the sweets with plenty of vegetables, I’ll be just fine. I don’t want to go to all the trouble of making a something if it doesn’t taste like anything. I like my food to be full flavor, so when it comes to salads I tend to go all out and load them up with all kinds of good things.

mixed green salad with pears, snap peas, seared chicken & orange vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

A hearty filling salad can be really easy to make with a wide variety of vegetables, and I usually like to throw in some fruit for sweetness. I generally like to do a few laps through the produce department and see if anything calls out to me. For this salad, I really had no preconceived ideas of what I wanted when I walked into the grocery store, but before I knew it I had something taking shape. I grabbed some chicken breast, a beautiful red bell pepper, a half pound of sugar snap peas, and some nice ripe bosc pears and I was almost finished. I thought a light citrusy dressing would tie everything together so I picked up a big naval orange, and I figured the salad could use something rich with a little crunch so I grabbed a shallot to fry up. All that was left was some organic spring mix and I was good to go.

If I’m eating a salad as my dinner I like it to have a lot going on to make it feel like a substantial meal.  I try to follow a very loose formula of a few different veggies or fruit mixed into some greens with a protein. I usually like to add some richness to my salads with something just a bit fatty and salty. This can be some crispy bacon bits or chewy lardons, a bit of crumbled or shredded cheese, a handful of toasted nuts or seeds, or even just a creamy dressing. A little bit of fat goes a long way to make a salad feel more filling and complete. For this salad I decided some fried shallots would serve my needs just fine.

mixed green salad with pears, snap peas, seared chicken & orange vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I got home I washed all my produce and set to work. I made up a sweet & slightly spicy vinaigrette with the zest and juice from my orange and a tiny bit of cayenne pepper. Then I sliced my pepper and pear into thin strips and cut the stem ends off of my snap peas. I thought a carrot would be a welcome addition and I had plenty at home so I decided to go for it. Grated carrots are great in salads, but I love to have super long, super thin strips of carrots. A few months ago I picked up a julienne peeler and now it’s seriously my new favorite kitchen tool. The one I use is made by Kuhn Rikon and is available here. It makes light easy work of cutting carrots into long, thin, even strips. This can be done on a mandolin cutter, but sometimes carrots and other harder vegetables can be tough to get through the teeth and blade on a mandolin with your fingers in tact. If you have the skills to pay the bills, you can also do this with a knife, but I think it’s much faster and easier with the julienne peeler.

mixed green salad with pears, snap peas, seared chicken & orange vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

After I had my veggies ready to go I set to work pan frying my shallot. I sliced it into very thin discs, separated those with my fingers and dredged them in generously seasoned flour. Then, in a cast iron skillet, I fried them in a few tablespoons of olive oil until they were nice and brown and crunchy. I’m sure that thinly sliced shallots would be great in the salad raw, or you could skip them all together, but fried they add just a touch of saltiness and caramelized crunchiness to an otherwise super light meal. When they were done I transferred them to a paper towel lined plate, and in the same skillet I seared my chicken breasts until well browned and cooked through.

When searing your chicken, or searing anything for that matter, it’s best not to use a non-stick pan. Non-stick pans are not designed to withstand long periods of high heat, no matter what material they’re made of. Teflon, nano-ceramic, it don’t matter. If you want a good pan you can sear in I’d recommend a cast iron skillet or a stainless steel saute pan. Of course, you’ll need to use a bit more butter or oil to cook in these pans, but you can get them screaming hot and not worry about negatively affecting the utility.

Many people tell me they’re intimidated by having to care for and maintain a cast iron skillet, but I promise you it’s not difficult. Most cast iron skillets sold today come pre-seasoned and ready to use, and maintaining the seasoning is pretty simple. There is tons of information on the internet about cast iron care, and it becomes second nature once you get the hang of it.

mixed green salad with pears, snap peas, seared chicken & orange vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

It would be really easy to change this salad to fit your taste by swapping some ingredients out for others. I think it was pretty damned tasty as is though. While fresh, light and healthy, this salad was totally satisfying. Along with the bitterness of the mixed greens, you have a few layers of flavor all tossed together and complimenting each other. There’s sweetness from pepper, peas, carrots & pears. Then there’s the sweet and tangy spice of the vinaigrette, the rich salty crunch of the shallots, and the hearty meatiness of the sliced chicken breast. While this salad might not be something you can throw together in 5 minutes- it is something that can easily be assembled and ready to eat in well under an hour, and I think it makes a great weeknight supper.

mixed green salad with pears, snap peas, seared chicken & orange vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Mixed Green Salad with Pears, Snap Peas, Seared Chicken & Orange Vinaigrette

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons divided
2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 clove garlic
1 large orange
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
salt and pepper
1 shallot
2 tablespoons of flour
4 small skinless boneless chicken breasts
1/2 lb sugar snap peas
1 red bell pepper
1 ripe bosc pear
1 large carrot
5 oz package spring mix

To make the vinaigrette measure out 1/4 cup olive oil, vinegar & honey into a small bowl. Finely zest orange and grate garlic (you can use your zester) and add to bowl. Juice the orange into the bowl, add cayenne pepper and whisk together. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Taste again.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy cast iron or stainless steel pan over medium high heat. Slice shallot into thin disks and separate rings with your fingers. In a small tupperware with a lid (or ziploc bag) season flour with salt and pepper. Add shallots and shake until well coated. Distribute shallots over pan evenly and, stirring every so often, fry them until they’re brown and crunchy but not burnt. Remove with a spoon and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

Turn the pan up to high and get it super hot. The remaining oil will smoke a bit. Season both sides of chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and add to pan. Cook on high for 5-7 minutes per side, or until fully cooked and nicely browned. Remove from pan and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing into thin strips.

While chicken is cooking, remove stem ends from snap peas, and slice bell pepper into thin strips. Cut the ends off your pear, slice in half, and scoop out center and seeds with a spoon. Slice into thin strips. Using a julienne peeler, mandolin, knife or grater, cut carrot into very thin long strips. In a large bowl add spring mix, peas, pepper, pear & carrots, and toss well with vinaigrette. Divide between plates and top with fried shallots and sliced chicken breast.