One either loves beets or hates them. I fall into the love camp. In this recipe, the red beauties are roasted and peeled, and then sliced into meaty slabs. You can make about three salads for each beet that you purchase, making this showy dish one of the least expensive (and healthiest) salads you can put together for six people. The pickled onions give the beets a bit of a tangy flavor without overwhelming their earthy tones.
2 large red beets
Pickled Red Onions
1 large red onion, sliced thinly into rings
1 cup apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
1 Japones pepper, crushed (or pinch crushed red pepper)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 bay leaf
1 pinch ground cloves
9 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
Canola Oil (for greasing cookie cutter)
Retained brine from the pickled onions
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Thoroughly rinse the beets and chop off the top and bottom of each. Place beets in a baking dish that is lined with foil, and rub with a tablespoon of canola oil. Place beets in the oven and roast for one hour. Check for doneness by piercing them at the top with a sharp knife.
Each beet should be tender, but not mushy. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool. When you can handle them safely, use a paper towel to rub off the skins, which should come off easily. Scrape any tough parts with the backside of a knife. Place the beets in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the salads.
In a small non-reactive saucepan, bring the vinegar, crushed pepper, brown sugar, salt, bay leaf and cloves to a boil. Add the onion slices and turn them in the boiling liquid until they are completely covered. Cook for approximately one minute and remove from the heat. Allow the onions to cool in the pan. You may transfer the onions to a jar or bowl.
Retain the excess brine for the dressing.
Rub the inside of a 1½” open cookie/biscuit cutter with a little canola oil. Lay the cutter down on top of parchment paper and spoon a heaping tablespoon of crumbled feta cheese into the cutter. Press the cheese down firmly with the backside of a spoon to pack it into the cutter. The goal is to form a cohesive disk, so be firm. Using your fingers, carefully push the disk out of the cutter. Wipe the cutter and oil it again. Proceed until you have made 6 disks (or 7 so that you have a spare in case one crumbles).
In a small bowl whisk ¼ cup of retained brine with ¼ cup of olive oil. To assemble each salad, place salad greens decoratively on a small plate. Place a beet slice on the greens. Wash your hands of the beet juice.
Drizzle a small spoonful of the dressing on top of the beet. Stack 4 to 5 onion rings on top of the beet. Carefully place a disk of feta cheese onto the onions. Place one more onion, decoratively, on top of the cheese.
Top with a small flake of Japones pepper skin, if you like. Serve immediately.