I love this Beetroot & Feta Salad with Fresh Herb Dressing. I think it's possible that I am the Number 1 fan on the planet of beetroot. I absolutely love the stuff! I'm never quite sure what people call it, beet or beetroot - I've always known it as beetroot, but I'm happy to call it whatever. Anyway, all was not always sweet where this vibrant vegetable was concerned. I hated it as a child, mainly because I never ate it fresh until I was an adult! We'd always have a massive jar of pickled beetroot at home, and it was always served next to a salad, neither of which I was in any way interested. The fact that my tiny hands couldn't unscrew the gigantic lid was a blessing.
Many years later in Australia I was reacquainted with the beetroot. The Aussie's love to pop a slice on a burger - at first I was kind of repulsed at the thought, but upon 'giving it a crack' I discovered just how delightful it was. On a side note, give this a try - you'll be pleasantly surprised how well beet and burger pair!
Back to beetroot - there's something quite intoxicating about the sweet, earthy flavour married with the creamy, salty flavours of feta cheese. The two work wonderfully together. As part of any Middle Eastern feast, I'll invariably include beetroot somewhere. It's pretty versatile and compliments many other dishes.
A plate of earthy zing on the side
This salad takes full advantage of all the sweetness of beetroot, and enhances with a drizzle of acid, in the form of vinegar and lemon juice. I like to use a tart vinegar, like red wine or sherry vinegar. White wine, Champagne and Apple Cider vinegar all work well too. Check out my guide to the cook's 33 essential oils, vinegars and sauces to learn more.
How to cook beetroot?
Cooking beetroot is easy, there are two popular ways to cook it. To boil it like most vegetables, or by using my preferred method: roasting. I feel that most of the flavour (and goodness) seeps out of a beet during boiling - when you roast it, the juices have nowhere to go, so all the nutrients and amazing colour is intensified within the vegetable. I wrap mine in foil and roast. Just remember to skewer them first. I had a beetroot explode in the oven once - as you can imagine this was a colourful experience.
If you like cooking with paint, you'll enjoy the colourful hands and work surfaces you'll encounter - but the flavour makes up for it. I've kind of given up trying to protect myself and everything within a 10m radius from pink splashes, including my very white dog who's always loitering around my feet in the kitchen.
To protect yourself, wear kitchen gloves and chop on a plate to keep things manageable OR buy yellow beetroot - they're much more forgiving!
Serving suggestions and substitutes
This salad comes with a delicious salty hit in the form of the feta cheese - perfect with the sweet beet - and when followed by a few drizzles of grassy, fragrant parsley & mint the flavour circle is completed. It's pure perfection!
I will make variations of this salad all the time. I'll change up the herbs, using tarragon, oregano, marjoram or dill. I've substituted the feta with goats cheese, which is amazing! I've also made this dish using Italian burrata or buffalo mozzarella and lastly an aged Spanish Manchego cheese - all with excellent results.
Lastly, I'll sometimes sprinkle over nuts, like pine nuts, pistachios, almonds and sunflower seeds to add a crunchy element. See... so versatile!
If you're planning on a larger feast with an array of dishes, you might also like to sample my Turkish Carrot Salad, or maybe the Moroccan Carrot Salad, my Turkish Bean Salad (Piyaz), a tasty crunchy Fattoush Salad or my simple Heirloom Tomato Salad. Lamb works particularly well with beetroot - try my Cypriot Sheftalia (they will blow your mind!) or Grilled Lamb with Za'atar. Lastly, if you have more beetroot, try my seductive Beetroot & Yoghurt Dip - a perfect partner to dipping bread!