Ah, the lowly beet. I’d always been skeptical of beets and had this belief that they tasted like dirt. And let’s be honest, half the time they DO taste like dirt or are gross gelatinous mush cakes sliding out of a can.
But I’ve had a few salads at restaurants lately that opened my eyes toward what a beet should really taste like. Inspired to give them a try, I concocted this side dish-turned-healthy lunch grain salad for my first foray with cooking beets at home. The key for me was roasting. You get a sweet earthiness (not dirt-i-ness) that’s surprisingly enjoyable – especially when combined with other strong flavors like pungent greens and tangy feta (goat cheese would also be delicious). It even had my similarly skeptical husband sneaking seconds.
Beet Barley Salad with Feta
1 C quick cooking pearl barley, cooked
1 large beet, peeled and roasted
1 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 oz feta cheese
1/4 C slivered almonds
3-4 stalks rainbow Swiss chard
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 Tbsp stone ground mustard
1/4 tsp kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 400. Peel beet and chop into small cubes, placing them on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast beet for 25-30 minutes or until edges are beginning to crisp and beet is tender.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, combine 2 C of water with barley. Bring to a boil and add a dash of salt. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Let barley cook, about 10 minutes until water has been absorbed. Barley should be slightly al dente.
Trim chard along the stalk to separate off the leaves. Roll leaves into a tube shape and julienne. Run your knife through the julienned shreds once or twice to avoid super long, stringy pieces. Place chard in a saute pan and drizzle very lightly with olive oil, just to prevent burning. Saute over medium heat until chard is just limp, about 5 minutes.
Transfer cooked barley to a large bowl. Mix in almonds and feta. Mix in Swiss chard. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegars and mustard and toss with barley mixture. Season salt and pepper and mix to combine. Finally add the beets and very gently toss to combine.