Aren’t the holidays grand? You get to see your co-workers get drunk on the company tab, eat gingerbread to soak up eggnog, and see strangers dressed as Santa Claus on the subway if you’re in the city like me. Maybe that last part wasn’t a huge bonus of the season. But the point is, you get to party more. Throw off your shoes and–even if you’re not wearing elf socks–enjoy a little whimsy and respite from the weekly dredge more often. I was invited to a few holiday parties, and my hands-down favorite appetizer/side/something to bring lately has been beet salad. It keeps well, travels well, and tends to stand out amongst a spread.
I thought I’d spice things up a bit with beets this time around, and because beets do absorb its marinating stuff so well over time, it was perfectly seasoned by the time it was served. But because beets also stain every surface they touch (including hands), I was delighted to find many golden beets at the market to make my salad with this weekend.
If you get a lot of beets (say, from a bunch with perishable greens that you can eat that day immediately), it makes sense to boil or roast a bunch of them to use for other purposes throughout the week. Refrigerated still in their skins, the cooked beets will stay fresh several days. You can grab just one for yourself at dinnertime, to go with some greens, or enjoy just as a snack. I know a lot of folks have been grooving on avocado toast as a go-to snack, breakfast or lunch routine. I’m a huge fan of beet toast, which is just as simple as long as you’ve done this weekly planning.
Golden beets are highly pigmented just like their red counterparts, but because the natural color is more, shall we say, mellow yellow?, it doesn’t make everything it comes into contact with look like a bloodbath. Interestingly, a girl who was enjoying this salad last night at my friend’s party commented that it seemed like these beets were also more “mellow” in flavor. Then, she quickly changed her mind: “It’s probably just the color association that’s swaying me.”
Whether or not golden beets are less vigorous in flavor than red ones (anyone want to weigh in on that?), you can prepare them just the same way. Once cooked, they peel easily and these gem-toned domes are ready to cut any way you want ’em. It’s really a joy to slice through a skinless, cooked beet. They do such a precise job of breaking from your knife.
Once cooked, I soaked them fully in sharp citrus juice and a bit of grated garlic. But I’d pickled a peck of peppers recently, and was eager to use them somehow for a touch of heat. I’m pretty sure these peppers were a Caribbean variety commonly called “finger peppers,” and have a medium-hot heat. I ended up with a peck of them somehow in the aftermath of cleaning out the fridge of a rented Air B&B house that myself and 12 other friends stayed at one recent weekend. I think someone brought them to make salsa with, but didn’t.
So I pickled them, because what else am I going to do with 20-plus finger peppers that I didn’t even buy or need? Then I sliced one finely, to fold into this beet salad, and added slivers of celery for crunch and herbal contrast, because they looked and sounded nice. Just a celery salad, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and pickled peppers alone, might be nice itself, too. If you did not have this sudden fortune of random peppers that you pickled, however, I think that a store-bought pickled pepper like pepperoncini or pickled jalapeno would work terrific in this context instead.
An easy, zesty salad to bring with you to work, or parties this holiday season. Lots more of the latter coming up, hopefully, too.
Beet and Celery Salad with Pickled Peppers
(makes 4-6 servings)
6 large golden beets (or 8 medium-small ones)
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced on a bias
about 1 tablespoon finely sliced pickled peppers (such as pepperoncini or pickled jalapenos)
about 1/4 teaspoon salt
juice from 2 fresh lemons
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Submerge the beets in boiling water for 10-15 minutes (or roast the beets until just tender). Drain and let cool until cool enough to handle. Trim the rough edges from the beets. Slip the skins off by hand (they should come off easily if the beet is cooked just enough. If the skins do not, use a pairing knife to help guide the skins off (or throw it back into the oven or water to cook just a bit longer).
Cut the beets into bite-sized wedges or slices. Toss all the ingredients together. Cover and chill to marinate at least 30 minutes before serving.
(for 4-6 servings)
6 large beets (at $3/bunch): $6.00
2 stalks celery: $0.50
2 lemons: $1.00
1 pickled pepper: $0.25
2 tablespoons olive oil: $0.25
Three brownie points: Whether it’s red, orange, or candy-cane striped, beets are still a great source of antioxidants. These can help clean and regenerate your system after so many cookies and rich holiday treats. Beets are also packed with fiber and potassium (which celery has healthy doses of, too). You’ll get lots more Vitamin C from all that fresh lemon juice, too.
Eight maple leaves: As a salad or vegetable side, it’s easy to be green and perfectly seasonal. Putting up vegetables for times when they aren’t in season (or times when they just fall on your lap) is a great way of preserving their uniqueness to enjoy throughout the year. This side dish relies on only plant-based flavors with a lot of punch, although Mediterranean-inspired flavors like fresh lemons and olive oil for condiments are imported at least in the Northeast.