Pomegranate & Beet Salad with Spiced Walnuts, Arugula Pesto & Goat Cheese

There is something about beets that I have just grown to LOVE.  Fresh, roasted beets have this great earthy flavor, and a wonderful burst of sweetness.  The color of beets is so vibrant and beautiful that it brings life to any dish.  The pomegranate juice reduction, the spicy and savory walnuts and the “basil-less” pesto are three very unique flavor components.  The arugula pesto has a grassy, garlicky taste that mirrors the earthy taste of the beets without overpowering them, as a basil pesto may do.  When you assemble this dish just right, preferably on a neutral, solid colored plate, you will see an artistic, culinary masterpiece form before your eyes.  Your guests will be very impressed by your restaurant quality starter course, trust me!

Recipe feeds about 4 people (as a side or as a starter course)

Beets-

Ingredients

  1. About 3 cups of sliced beets (Fresh beets that are thoroughly washed,  peeled and sliced into ½ inch thick rounds)
  2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  3. ½ Cup of fresh pomegranate juice (about 1.5 pomegranates if you are squeezing your own) (Tip: If you are using fresh, remove the seeds from the pomegranate, pulse them in a food processor and then strain it so you remove the seeds and are left with the juice!)
  4. The seeds from half a fresh pomegranate (to garnish the salad..its a must!)
  5. Orange Peel (use a vegetable peeler to peel off a 1 inch x 1 inch piece of orange zest)   
  6. 1 ½ Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  7. 2 ½ Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar
  8. 1 Sprig of Fresh Thyme
  9. 2-3 oz Goat Cheese

Arugula Pesto (See recipe below)

Savory Spiced Walnuts (See recipe below)

 

First make the spiced nuts-

Savory Spiced Walnuts-

  1. ¾ Cups Walnuts
  2. 1 Tablespoon Butter
  3. 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  4. Dash of Cayenne Pepper
  5. Dash of Ground Ginger
  6. Dash of Salt
  7. Pinch of Black Pepper

Steps-

  1. In a medium skillet melt the butter on the stove. Add all the remaining ingredients and toss the nuts until they are evenly coated. 
  2. Cook the walnuts on medium-low heat until they are toasted and fragrant.
  3. Spread the nuts out evenly on some aluminum foil and let them cool and dry out completely.

 

Next start the beets!

Steps-

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F
  2. Toss the peeled/sliced beets in a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and lay them flat on a sheet pan.
  3. Roast them in the oven about 45 minutes or until tender.  Be sure to check them half way through the cooking time and flip them over with a spatula so they cook evenly.
  4. Remove them from the oven but do not shut the oven off.
  5. In a small saucepan heat the butter, pomegranate juice, brown sugar, thyme leaves, orange peel and a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper.
  6. Heat on medium heat whisking occasionally until the mixture reduces by about 2/3.  You want it to turn into a syrup like consistency.
  7. After the mixture reduces, toss in the beets and coat them completely in the sauce.
  8. Using a slotted spoon remove the beets from the syrup and allow the excess sauce to drip off.  The syrup is fairly sweet so you don’t want it to be too overwhelming.  Place the coated beets back onto the sheet pan and roast in the oven again from 7-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

While the beets are cooling slightly, make the pesto.

Arugula Pesto-

  1. 1 ½ Cups Fresh Arugula
  2. 4-5 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  3. ½ Clove Garlic
  4. A dash of salt and pepper
  5. 2 Tablespoons Walnuts

Steps-

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until it is a smooth, creamy texture. Set aside.

Next, assemble the salad!

Steps-

  1. Spread a nice layer of the arugula pesto onto your serving dish (or on individual salad plates).
  2. Nicely lay the pomegranate glazed beets on top of the pesto.
  3. Sprinkle some of the savory spiced walnuts on top, and then finish the dish with crumbles of the creamy, tangy goat cheese and a few tablespoons of the fresh pomegranate seeds.
  4. If you would like, you can garnish with some fresh thyme leaves and a little sea salt.