This Goat Cheese and Beet Salad combines roasted beets, spiced candied pecans, and goat cheese (aka chèvre), and gets tossed with a spectacular passion fruit vinaigrette… Goat Cheese and Beet Salad will improve your salad "game" with its unique, tropical dressing, and I know you're going to love it!
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - Recipe Inspiration
Should I apologize for bringing you another recipe/post inspired by my month in Peru? Haha. I guess I left a piece of my heart in that beautiful country, and I was certainly impressed by the vast array of food we enjoyed. There is so much more to Peruvian cuisine than ceviche and aji de gallina... So while the flavors and memories are still fresh, I want to get my thoughts in WordPress and on my blog for safekeeping. 🙂 Savvy?
First, let me give you a little back story on Goat Cheese and Beet Salad. I really prefer to refer to passionfruit by its Spanish name maracuya, so forgive me if I go back and forth between the two... My inspiration for the recipe arose in the charming Peruvian village of Pisac in the Sacred Valley. This Bohemian village and its quaint restaurants, shops, and mercado sit at the foot of the Inca Pisac ruins.
The Pisac Inca Inn provided us with a beautiful view of the ruins and the surrounding mountains. The town itself is very walkable, but we were thrilled (and exhausted) by our hike up to the ruins. We returned to Pisac ravenously hungry, and our group decided on the popular Ulrike's Cafe for dinner. The menu offers a range of dishes from traditional Peruvian to tourist favorites like pizza, with an emphasis on fresh and made-from-scratch.
The Peruvian diet - at least the Andean Peruvian diet - focuses on protein and
mostly carbohydrates. I'm a big salads/veggies girl, so the mixed greens salad with a maracuya vinaigrette jumped off the menu at Ulrike's. I fell in love with the dressing, and of course it went on "the list." ("The List" is on my husband's cell phone... he helps me keep track of my hare-brained and random ideas 😆 )
As I've mentioned ad nauseam, I eat with my eyes, I love colorful and fresh food, and a variety of textures. I stuck pretty close to the combination of greens (mesclun or field greens), veg (roasted beets), cheese (chèvre), and nuts (pecans). I added sweet bell pepper for additional color. However, this recipe is really more about its dressing. You can swap out any (or all) of these ingredients, but you've got to try the passionfruit vinaigrette!
🥗 How to Pair Salad Dressings
I've been creating my own salad dressings for years, so I have them down pat. I typically start with a 1:1 ratio of acidity to oil, and choose ingredients that complement each other.
Maracuya is fairly acidic (pH around 3), so I cut back on the vinegar. I like super smooth, aged sherry vinegar with the maracuya. My standard oil is extra virgin olive oil, but I occasionally will use other oils. I am sticking with it on this one.
I typically add a bit of dijon mustard and a small shallot to add depth, and some type of sweetener (fruit preserves, honey, agave nectar, brown sugar, etc.). The passionfruit vinaigrette gets its sweetness (just enough to highlight the fruit) from honey. I am careful to limit sugars in our diet and my recipes, so I do exercise restraint in my salad dressings.
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- beets - On photo day, I used golden beets. I prefer them because they don't stain my hands! You can use any variety of beets or even substitute roasted pumpkin, butternut squash, or sweet potato.
- greens - On photo day, I used a baby greens mix of kale, arugula, romaine, red leaf, etc. Arugula is always my favorite... Use your preferred salad greens.
- pecans - Candied pecans are my favorites, but walnuts work well too.
- chèvre - I love beets and goat cheese together, but feta is another great option. And hey, if bleu cheese is your thing (it is mine!), by all means, go for it!
- bell pepper - Red, yellow, orange, or a mix! I love the pop of color, and of course, bell pepper is healthy!
- dressing - Of course I highly recommend my passionfruit vinaigrette, but there are other options. Try this raspberry fresh mint vinaigrette, or my pomegranate blood orange vinaigrette. Just not "into" making homemade salad dressings? We often have a bottle of this raspberry pecan dressing in our refrigerator, and it pairs really well with this goat cheese and beet salad.
- Roast the beets - Preheat oven to 425 degrees (400 convection). Toss beets with a drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and a few grinds of pepper. Roast until tender but not soft (20-30 minutes). NOTE: Keep an eye on your beets!
- Candy the pecans - Meanwhile, candy the pecans. Set a sheet of waxed paper or foil on the counter, and mix up your salt-chile powder blend. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt the tablespoon of sugar. Add the pecan halves, stirring to coat. Continue to stir pecans 2 to 3 minutes being careful to not burn them. Scrape onto the paper or foil, then IMMEDIATELY sprinkle with the salt blend. Allow to cool.
- Make the dressing - Prepare the maracuya vinaigrette by adding all ingredients to a blender or food processor. Taste and adjust. You might want a bit more honey or salt. If it's too acidic for your taste, add a bit more olive oil. Skip this step if using bottled dressing!
- Assemble the salad - Assemble the salad. Layer the greens in an ample bowl, top with coarsely chopped pecans, roasted beets, goat cheese, and pepper strips, then drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss if desired. Enjoy!
Smaller pieces of beets obviously roast more quickly. Start by cutting both ends of the beets off, and peeling them. Cut them in half end to end, and then in half again, and continue until you have thin wedges. (See photos). Alternatively, you can do a small dice - ½" will cook fairly quickly. Roast until tender but not soft. Depending on the size of your beet pieces, this may take 20-30 minutes.
While my favorite for this salad is goat cheese (aka chèvre), we do love it with feta. This beet salad recipe is more of a "template" than a "recipe."
Remember, this is a salad template. My personal favorite is arugula, but baby kale, spinach, or a blend are fantastic as well.
While I specify sherry vinegar, there are other options. I love the smooth, nutty flavor of sherry vinegar. Champagne or wine vinegar make great substitutes.
🧂 Useful Stuff
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This salad comes together pretty quickly... I start the beets roasting while I make the dressing and then prep the vinaigrette. The spiced candied pecans take just a few minutes, and we love the spicy-sweet nuttiness they add. If you're in a hurry, just give the pecans a quick toast in a hot skillet
It goes without saying - homemade salad dressings rock, and they're so much better for you than bottled dressings with their fillers, preservatives, and artificial coloring. I hope you'll consider including homemade dressings - and salads like this one - in your menu planning! Looking for more salad dressings recipes? See my Salad Dressings Printable...
I left a bit of my heart in Peru. Can you tell? See Pisac photos below! Hasta la proxima vez (until next time)!