Greek beet and feta salad recipe
Whether or not you like eating beets, you have to admit that they are some of the most beautiful looking vegetables out there…or actually, under there; beets are root vegetables whose bulbs grow underground. In any case, although the most common type of beet is the deep red variety, there are a number of other vibrant colours, such as orange, yellow and red candy-cane striped beets called chiogga beets. Nature is truly marvelous.
Although it is true that beets are beauties, there is so much more to them than meets the eye, and all of it is delicious. The bulbous portion of the beet plant is the beetroot (or the taproot) and the stems and leaves form the beet greens. Beet greens are often discarded, which is a shame because they are packed with flavour and nutrition. Our parents know this and would never dream of tossing these lovely greens into the compost or trash. In keeping with their philosophy of waste nothing, this salad incorporates both beetroots and beet greens, and is as pleasing to the palate as it is to the eye.
One of us is a nurse and therefore, quite comfortable talking about bodily fluids and excrements. If you aren’t so comfortable learning about them…too bad, because this bit of information could help avoid a panicked visit to your family doctor, or even worse, the Emergency Room. If you eat lots of beets (and with a recipe this delicious, you just might) you may experience a condition called beeturia. Friends, this is when your pee-pee (scientifically referred to as, your urine) turns red. The cause for this is the chemical betacyanin, found in red beets, which give them their fantastic colour. Different people break betacyanin down in varying degrees, and the degree of breakdown is dependant upon stomach acidity and the nutritional profiles of foods eaten alongside the red beets. More potentially worrisome than red urine, is that betacyanin may also cause you to fall victim to red poop (more academically referred to as your stool or feces). Do not fear, both beeturia and red poop are harmless and you certainly should not panic if you see red in the toilet bowl 12 – 48 hours after eating red beets. Any other time it appears as though you may have blood in your urine or stool however, please, please, consult your doctor.
This recipe is made with red beets, but you can follow the steps exactly with other coloured beets, or a mixture of different colours. Also, if fresh beet greens are not available, you could make this same recipe with only the beetroot. Beet greens are quite delicate. If you do find them, make sure to examine the leaves and only buy batches of beets in which the leaves and stalks appear fresh. Because they are so fragile, it is always best to use them the same day that you purchase them.
We think that some people are reluctant to cook with beets because they can be messy, and if their juice gets on fabric, it can stain quite quickly. We have a solution to that problem, and no…it is not cooking naked. Keep your pants on (ha ha! … see what we did there?), and read on.
There are many ways to prepare beetroot but we find that the tastiest and easiest way is to roast them. Roasting beets seems to bring out their most delicious flavour, their most pronounced sweetness. And, if you use the techniques we are about to share with you, any concerns you may have about the mess that beets make will be washed away.
How to prepare beets with no mess:
Key to this mess-free preparation is some aluminum foil and a pair of rubber gloves. We like to use dishwashing gloves reserved specifically for this purpose. Cut the beet stems off of the beet root, leaving about 1/2 inch stem attached to the beetroot. Wash the beets and wrap each beet individually in aluminum foil and then set them all on a baking sheet, place them in the oven, and roast them until they are done. The beets are then peeled after they are cooked, while still hot, but warm enough to handle; this is made easier because of the rubber gloves. The actual steps are as follows: keeping your rubber gloves on at all times, take one beet at a time and carefully unwrap it, being mindful to keep the beet, and any juices which may have accumulated, on the aluminum foil. Then, using a sharp pairing knife, carefully peel the beet, allowing the peel you remain on the aluminum foil. Peeling the beets should be very easy to do; in fact, if your beets are still hot enough, the peel will often just slip off. After the beet is peeled, carefully cut it into bite size chunks and place these chunks in a bowl. Wrap all the beet scraps in the aluminum foil and place in the wastebasket. Even better, carefully move the beet peels into the compost bin and discard the aluminum foil only. Repeat with the rest of the beets. Once you are done, wash your hands while still wearing your gloves. This will keep them nice and clean until next time.
The reason you will leave about 1/2 inch stem on the beetroot is because this will help minimize any of the juice that leaks out of the beets during the roasting process.
If you like, you can roast the beets and allow them to cool completely while still wrapped in the aluminum foil. You can then refrigerate them until you are ready to peel them and make your salad. If you do this however, it is a good idea to warm the beets up just a little bit after you have peeled and chopped them. This will allow the oil and vinegar that you will be dressing them with to really be absorbed into the vegetable.
This salad is most delicious served warm or at room temperature.
The amount of vinegar called for in this recipe is a starting point. Adjust as you like, adding more or less vinegar, depending upon your preference.
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- 6-8 beets (with beet greens attached)
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp (15 ml) Greek olive oil
- 2 tbsp + 1 tbsp (15 ml) red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dry Greek oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup crumbled Greek feta
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cut off the tops of the beet greens, leaving about 1/2 inch of the stem still attached to the beetroot, and set the greens aside.
- Wash the beetroots and wrap each one individually in aluminum foil.
- Place on a cookie sheet or in a shallow baking pan and place this on the middle rack of the oven. Cook for approximately 60 minutes or until beets are slightly soft when pressed.
- Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
- Wearing your rubber gloves, unwrap each beet one at a time and, using a paring knife, peel off the skin. Chop each beet into bite sized chunks and place in a mixing bowl. Repeat with all of the beets.
- Wash and remove your gloves.
- In the bowl with the chopped roasted beets add 1/4 cup Greek olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon Greek oregano and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix well to combine, and set aside.
- Chop the beet greens and stems into approximately 3 inch long pieces. Rinse very well in a bowl of water. Repeat until the leaves and stems are clean.
- Boil a pot of water to which you have added 1 teaspoon salt. When the water is at a rolling boil, drop in the greens and stems and lower heat to medium. Cook for approximately 5 minutes.
- Drain the greens and stems and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. In a bowl, mix with 1 tablespoon Greek olive oil, 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss well.
- To serve, plate the beet greens and stems along with the beets. Top with 1/2 cup crumbled Greek feta cheese.