The Very Best Balsamic Beet Salad Recipe (& How to Love More Vegetables)
Beets. Either you love ‘em or you hate ‘em. If you hate beets — like I did up until a few years ago — I’d venture to guess you’ve only tried them canned or boiled. But hey, maybe that was just me.
Story Time: How I learned to like vegetables, and how you can too
Growing up, I was a pretty picky child. I was one of those buttered-noodles-at-a-restaurant kids. Bless my mother for always sticking a vegetable on my plate at home, but the only ones I would accept were carrots and the tops of broccoli (better than nothing, right?). I never even considering trying beets at the time — their strange slippery texture when boiled always repulsed me.
Fast forward to freshman year of college. While most 18 year-olds were enjoying their newfound freedom to eat cereal at every meal, I was busy realizing I was on track to become a dietitian who didn’t eat any veggies. How could I ever be a real dietitian if I didn’t like vegetables!?
Thus began my own personal veggie revolution. Starting with tomatoes (which are technically a fruit, but cut me some slack), I forced myself to try small portions of different veggies everyday until I gradually expanded my horizons. I would try different cooking methods (raw, roasted, stir-fried, sauteed, steamed) and flavorings (dressings, sauces, spices) until I found a way to make each vegetable more tolerable. With each progressive food, my palate expanded and it became easier to enjoy and appreciate each vegetable. By the end of college, I’d grown to find them all downright delicious.
One of the last veggies on my to-do list was beets, which I held out on until recently. I vividly recall the first time I enjoyed eating beets: it was at the fast-casual restaurant, Sweetgreen, where I ordered a salad hilariously called Beets Don’t Kale My Vibe. Instead of their usual slippery/soft texture, these beets were crunchy, balsamic-y, and delicious! I quickly found the recipe online and have been preparing different versions of this salad at home for years. Since eating these beets more often, I’ve even learned to like them boiled too :)
I tell you this story to encourage you to try vegetables cooked and flavored in all sorts of ways before you decide you don’t like them. Don’t give up on certain foods because you didn’t like them growing up or had one bad experience. Believe it or not, it’s never too late to learn to like new foods.
Our taste buds are continuously dying off and new cells are forming in their place. Your preferences are not permanent. In fact, the average life span of a taste bud has been estimated as 10 days. That’s why the theory goes that if you try the same food every day, you’ll learn to like it after 10 days. Give it a shot, and what’s the worst that can happen? You don’t like it? Would that really be so horrible?
It is way more fun to eat healthfully when you truly enjoy the taste of all types of veggies. When you only tolerate carrots and broccoli, healthy eating can feel like a chore — but if you learn to appreciate a wider variety, you’ll realize eating healthy isn’t a punishment.
If you plan to be healthy for the rest of your life, start spreading some love to allllll the plants and I promise it will be way easier and way more delicious!
How to Cook Crunchy Beets
The original recipe, which I’ve altered a bit, calls for broiling cubed beets for 7-8 minutes.
The first time I tried this recipe the oven in my Brooklyn apartment was broken, so I had to get creative. When life gives you lemons, right? Instead of broiling I sliced the beets thin (to help them cook through faster), heated the balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below) in a pan, and sauteed the beets for about 8-10 minutes, or until they were cooked through but still firm.
It’s as easy as that! Boiling beets takes almost an hour, so this method is much easier for busy weeknights.
Important note: Once peeled, beets stain everything they touch — the cutting board, your hands, and your clothes. But don’t stress, the color comes out pretty easily with soap and water. Also, a day or two later, you’ll find your poop will be stained a lovely magenta color; this is completely normal :)
How to Prepare Raw Kale (to make it less bitter and difficult to digest)
The kale craze has died down a bit and made way for other fads like avocado and celery juice. But the leafy green is still very popular, and for good reason: it is crazy nutrient dense.
Many people don’t like kale salads though because they can be tough and bitter tasting. But, we just need to treat our kale right and it’ll treat you right in return.
Here’s the magic step: Massage your kale. Get your hands all up in there and massage the leaves between your fingers for 3-4 minutes, and they will gradually soften. This crucial step makes a world of difference for reducing kale’s bitterness and making it much easier to digest (aka less gas-inducing).
Important note: if you still find kale to be too hard on your belly, try chewing it VERY well and eating more slowly. This simple change can make a huge difference.
A Final Note
This may seem hypocritical to say right before posting the recipe, but in general, I don’t like following recipes. I love cooking, but I hate the process of finding a recipe online, shopping for specific ingredients, constantly looking back and forth between my stove and my laptop screen…
When I do actually use a recipe, I’ll view it as a guide rather than a strict plan. Be my guest to do the same with this beet salad. If you already have leftover quinoa in the fridge, use that in place of the wild rice. If for some strange reason you actually prefer boiled beets, ignore my diatribe about how crunchy beets are better and use your own.
Cooking is about experimentation, so be free and have fun!
The Very Best Balsamic Beet Salad
Yield: 4 servings
For the Balsamic Vinaigrette:
6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp honey
Salt and black pepper to taste
For the Beets + Salad:
High heat cooking fat, such as avocado oil or coconut oil
2 medium-sized beets, peeled & sliced thinly
1 small red onion, diced
6-8 cups chopped kale
3/4 cup wild rice or brown rice, rinsed well
4 oz goat cheese
½ cup raw or roasted chopped pecans or almonds
Balsamic Vinaigrette (above)
cook wild rice
In a medium mixing bowl, combine all Balsamic Vinaigrette ingredients.
Heat 2 tbsp of the Balsamic Vinaigrette in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add red onion and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Next, add the beets and cook for another 8-10 minutes, beets should remain firm. Taste often until you reach desired texture. Allow beets to cool to room temperature.
In a large mixing bowl, massage the kale with your hands until slightly softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the wild rice, beets, and onions. Drizzle in the desired amount of vinaigrette and toss well to coat the kale.
Serve with crumbled goat cheese and pecans on top.
Note: You can add tofu/beans/chicken/other protein if you’d like, but know that you’re already getting some protein from the cheese, nuts, and grains so it isn’t necessary.