This savory, easy beet feta salad with garlicky crispy walnuts takes no more than ten minutes to put together using beets cooked in the Instant Pot (or even faster, packaged pre-cooked beets). To me, it's the perfect and colorful combo of the earthiness of the beets plus salty and sour notes.
I enjoy beets, whether red, gold or chioggia. I particularly like to serve beets with any meal containing meat. Beets contain naturally occurring hydrochloric acid, the same acid we produce in our stomachs that helps us digest animal proteins, and is often sold as betaine. It's is a great natural digestive aid.
Beets are great raw, such as when grated onto a salad. I like to use all three kinds of beets for this (stay tuned for recipe) when the chioggias are in season in the fall.
Of course beets can be cooked in several ways.
Sometimes I roast beets, as with my Roasted Beets and Rutabagas, and serve them as a side dish. They are delicious any time, even as a snack. If you have roasted some beets, they'd be great with this dressing.
why use the Instant Pot for the beets?
However, for this salad I find that pressure-cooked beets are sweeter and take up the marinade better.
I used to boil my beets in a large soup pot, but I found it tricky to get the tops of them done while the bottoms got quite tender. This happened even when I turned them from time to time. And you need to have them at quite a vigorous boil, and unless you use a really large pot, the liquid can boil over.
Once I tried beets in the Instant Pot, I've never looked back! It cooks them evenly and I can just set and forget it.
Once the beets are cooled I slice them thinly and drizzle the dressing on, then stir gently to incorporate it. You could cube your beets, if you like, instead of the thin slicing. But the thin slices make a nice canvas for the gold of the walnuts and the white of the cheese.
Speaking of the cheese, the feta is low enough in lactose that all of us in the family can eat it. If you are avoiding dairy for other reasons, use a non-dairy feta such as Violife.
Why white balsamic vinaigrette?
The light, white-balsamic vinaigrette has just about become my favorite salad dressing. It's so easy to whisk together! Knowing I can make it so quickly at home keeps me from buying expensive salad dressings at the market. I usually double or triple the amount given here and use the rest for other salads.
Just be aware, though, that any leftover salad dressing that you store in the refrigerator will partly solidify because olive oil becomes solid at 38 degrees F. When you are ready to use the dressing for another salad, take it out of the fridge to allow it to warm up while you are prepping the other ingredients.
How to make crispy walnuts
I make the crispy walnuts following the directions that Sally Fallon published in her book, Nourishing Traditions. I've noted my process below. I use a Nesco dehydrator - love it! The crispy nuts make a great snack alone, too.
When you soak and dehydrate walnuts, it reduces the bitterness I usually taste with these nuts. Walnuts have a high omega-3 fatty acid content compared to pecans, for example, and I'm always looking for ways to increase the omega-3's in our diet.
So I've been delighted to find out how wonderful and easy they are to prepare this way. Note, too, that they are still considered raw when dehydrated at such a low temperature, yet you will discover walnuts' truly buttery flavor.
Don't have a dehydrator? Prepare the walnuts as directed. Roast the walnuts at 350 degrees F for 6-8 minutes, then remove a nut, let it cool, and taste for crispness. Don't let them go any longer or they will burn - and burned walnuts smell terrible! Let your taste be your guide for this, because the roasting time can vary depending on your oven, the size of the walnuts, etc.
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I love how tasty this recipe is, whether I have just poured the marinade on or if I am eating the salad the next day. The feta cheese (dairy or non) and the crispy walnuts provide a little hint of salt that is the perfect complement to the tartness of the vinaigrette and the beets.
I hope you will enjoy this salad and leave a comment to let me know how it went!
Other side dishes in A Meal In Mind
Kitchen items used in this recipe
I don't know what I'd do without my Instant Pot. I use it as a slow-cooker as much as I use it as a pressure cooker. I almost never buy canned beans because it does such a great job in cooking dry beans. I love it for large vegetables such as the beets in this recipe and artichokes. And the price has come down incredibly since I bought my first one!
The Nesco dehydrator is a great device, if you have room for it. It's also priced at less than I paid, by about $20. I considered buying the Excalibur dehydrator since you can also make yogurt in it, but now that I have the Instant Pot for that, the less expensive Nesco is enough for my needs.
I make crispy nuts fairly often, and appreciate how reasonably priced and tasty the Kirkland walnuts are.
This Trader Joe's White Balsamic Vinegar is the only type I've tried, and certainly it's less expensive at TJ's itself. It has such a mild bite compared to the amount of flavor you get, I highly recommend it.
California Olive Ranch makes a wonderful olive oil that I use in most of my recipes.
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Beet-Feta Salad with Garlicky Crispy Walnuts
For the beets
- 3 medium to large beets 3 to 4 inches across
- 1 cup water for the Instant Pot
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar I like Trader Joe's
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic pressed
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon or small sprigs fresh herbs, such as thyme (optional, but delicious) for garnish
- 3 ounces dairy or non-dairy feta cheese for garnish
For the Crispy Walnuts
- 3 cups walnuts
- ¾ teaspoon pink sea salt or more to taste
- ⅜ teaspoon garlic powder or more to taste
For the beets
- Rinse beets, and if you are not going to peel them, scrub well.
- Place in the Instant Pot and cook on the pressure setting for 23-27 minutes, depending on the size of your beets. Allow the pressure to come down naturally for 15 minutes, then release manually.
- Allow the beets to cool enough to handle. This salad is as good warm as cold.
- Peel the beets (unless you decided to eat them unpeeled) and cut off any remaining leaves from the tops. Slice thinly or cube them.
- Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Pour over the cooked beets and stir gently to coat all sides.
- The vinaigrette flavor will become somewhat more intense the longer the beets sit in it, so for a more strongly flavored salad, combine the beets and dressing in advance and refrigerate them. Remove from the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the olive oil to re-liquefy.
- Serve on a bed of greens and garnish with feta cheese, crispy walnuts and thyme sprigs just before serving.
For the walnuts
- Cover the walnuts with filtered water and allow to soak for 24-36 hours. Rinse about every 8 hours. Walnuts will swell slightly.
- When they have soaked as long as you like, drain the walnuts thoroughly. Sprinkle the seasonings over the walnuts and stir well.
- Place the seasoned walnuts on dehydrator trays and dehydrate at 105 degrees F for 36-48 hours depending on your preference for texture. They become more buttery as they become completely dehydrated.
- Allow to cool for no more than 30 minutes and store the crispy nuts in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
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