4 to 6 servings
Total time: 1 hour, plus cooling and marinating
For the beets:
8 to 10 medium-large beets
2 tablespoons minced shallots
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons rich, sweet vinegar, balsamic or sherry
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup shelled nuts, like pistachios, walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup loosely packed whole herb leaves (like parsley, mint or coriander) or 2 cups small salad greens (like baby spinach, baby arugula or mâche), or use a mixture or herbs and greens
For the goat cheese:
1/4 cup fresh goat cheese (125ml)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon rice or white wine vinegar, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt, more to taste
Prepare the beets: Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 400 degrees. Place a sheet pan underneath to catch any drips from the beets.
Trim the greens, tops and stems from the beets. Wash thoroughly and wrap in aluminum foil packages, about 4 beets per package. Place the packages directly on the oven rack and bake until beets are easily pierced by a fork or knife, 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on size. (No need to unwrap the beets to test them.)
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine shallots, oil, vinegar and a lavish sprinkling of salt and pepper. Set aside.
Remove beets from oven and carefully open packages to let the steam escape. Let cool at least 20 minutes, or up to 4 hours.
Unwrap beets and use a peeler or your fingers to remove any tough skin. Dice beets neatly into bite-size pieces. Add to bowl with shallot mixture, mix well and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours. Stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a toaster oven or 350-degree oven, toast nuts until golden, about 5 minutes. If unsalted, sprinkle with salt. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
Prepare the goat cheese: In a bowl, mix or whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Keep whipping until cheese is fluffy and soft. Taste and season with additional vinegar and salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
To serve, pile beets on a serving platter or individual plates. Spoon remaining dressing over the top. Spoon dollops of goat cheese mixture on and around the beets, then tuck in herbs and/or greens. Sprinkle with nuts and serve immediately.
NOTE: It’s nice to use multicolored beets, but keep in mind that magenta beets will dye the others to match as soon as they are combined. The best solution is to use just a couple of colors, and marinate them separately until time to serve.