John D. Finley: Beet salad offers colors of the season

John D. Finley: Beet salad offers colors of the season

Lucas & Lewellen’s 2015 Santa Barbara County Viognier

Lucas & Lewellen’s 2015 Santa Barbara County Viognier.

With Christmas just a few days away, let’s go for something red and green – a beet salad, adding a white topper! Goat Cheese. This recipe is somewhat labor intensive, but well worth the effort for the Christmas table.

 Beet Salad with Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese

1-1/2lb red beets with tops

Water and salt for boiling

1c white vinegar

1c water

1/4c sugar

1Tbl pickling spices

1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced

1/2c hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped, divided

1/2c canola oil

2Tbl white balsamic (or other white) vinegar

1Tbl honey

2Tbl fresh squeezed orange juice

2tsp Dijon mustard

1 clove shallot, minced

1/2tsp coarse salt

1/4tsp ground black pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

5oz mixed baby greens

3oz goat cheese, (preferably aged) crumbled

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut tops off beets, but don’t cut into the flesh.

Submerge the beets in the boiling water, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until beets are fork tender. Drain the beets into a strainer or colander. Set beets in the refrigerator to chill.

When cooled, peel beets and dice into ½” cubes. Set aside.

Pickled Red Onion

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and spices in a medium saucepan. Slowly bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.

Put the onions in a 1pint Mason jar; pour the hot liquid on top to completely submerge the onions. Cover and cool to room temperature, at least two hours. Chill before serving.

Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette

Combine 1/4c hazelnuts and oil in a blender. Blend at high speed until the nuts are completely broken down and incorporated into the oil (about 1 minute.) Pour into a jar and set aside. As the oil sits, the ground nuts will settle to the bottom.

In a mixing bowl combine the vinegar, honey, orange juice, mustard, minced shallot, salt and pepper. Gently blend with a whisk. Continuing to whisk, slowly pour in the hazelnut oil along with all of the ground nuts until the ingredients come together.

In a large mixing bowl combine 1c pickled onions (drained) with the beets. Add 1/3c – 1/2c vinaigrette and toss thoroughly. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on beds of mixed baby greens; top with the remaining 1/4c hazelnuts and the goat cheese. Reserve remaining vinaigrette for another use.

I can think of nothing more heavenly to pair with this salad than Lucas & Lewellen’s 2018 Santa Barbara County Viognier. The hand-harvested grapes from their Los Alamos and Santa Ynez Valley Vineyards create a rich and exhilarating wine with hints of melon, stone fruit and citrus. With fragrant aromas of pear and apricots, the palate is softly textured with creamy stone fruit intensity, honeysuckle notes and a satisfying long finish. 2019 Central Coast Wine Competition Double Gold.

John David Finley is a free-lance writer and author of the cookbook, Sacred Meals from our Family Table, which features Santa Barbara County wines. He can be reached at



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